THE LABOUR STRIKE AND FG’S INERTIA – THE WAY FORWARD

THE LABOUR STRIKE AND FG’S INERTIA – THE WAY FORWARD

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PROF. MIKE A. A. OZEKHOME, SAN, CON, OFR, FCIArb, LL.M, PhD, LL.D, D.Litt, D.SC, DA, DHL

Labour has grounded Nigeria – from airports, hospitals, tertiary institutions, to electricity which has plunged the biggest black nation on earth into total darkness. I am in full, complete and total support of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC)’s current national strike for an upward review of the FG’s proposed minimum wage of N60,000 per month. NLC and TUC had also demanded that the government reverse the increase in electricity tariff to N65/KWH. When talks broke down with none of the parties shifting grounds, Labour commenced strike action on midnight of Sunday 2nd June, 2024. FG’s proposed meagre salary is certainly not a living wage in today’s Nigeria. At the current parallel market exchange rate of N1,470 to one dollar, the wage being conceded by the Federal Government to labour is a mere $40.82 per month (N60,000), while the NLC and TUC are asking for a whooping N615,500 per month.

By way of comparative analysis with some other countries globally, the monthly minimum wage in the United States is US$1,160 ( N1,705,200); the UK  £1,376 (N2,528,950); Canada 2,464 CAD (N2,710,400); France £1,539.42 (N2,847,927); Ghana GHC 2,904 (N292,548.96) Rwanda RWF 56,668 (N64,602); South Africa R4,067.2 – R4,412.8 (N322,406.944 –  N349,802.656); Botswana P1,168 (N122,056); Germany £1,985.6 (N3,673,360) Australia AUD3531.2 (N 3,490,414.64); Kenya is KES15,201 (N172,683.36). In UAE, there is no general minimum wage as it differs from profession to profession. However, for skilled Labourers AED 5,000 (N2,019,435); people with University degrees AED12,000 (N4,846,644); qualified technicians AED 7,000 (N2,827,209); South Korea is 2,010,580 Won (N2,161,574.558). China differs from city to city. However, Shanghai is RMB 2,690 per month (N551,181) and Heilongjiang RMB 1,450 (N 297,105). Singapore does not prescribe a general minimum wage for all its workers. However, the minimum Singaporean wage is averaged at 6,792 SGD/Month = N7,464,408).

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Even though Rwanda and Botswana’s minimum wage per month which is RWF 56,668 (N64,602) and P1,168 (N122,056), respectively, appears meagre, the two countries have since put in place social services that cushion the masses’ suffering and put them on a developmental path. Indeed, they are two of the fastest-growing economies not only in Africa but also in the world. We do not have such in Nigeria. Nigeria is perhaps the only country in the world that brazenly defies Isaac Newton’s Law of Motion to the effect that “what goes up must come down”. In Nigeria, once prices of goods go up, they never come down.

Are these countries and us not living on the same Planet earth? We are, of course.

With the present spirally inflation, N60,000 cannot even buy one bag of rice which today sells for between N80,000 and N120,000 depending on the grade and quality.

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What is the way forward from this FG-Labour face-off and stalemate? Part of the solution lies in steering a middle course between labour’s N615,500 per month demand and the FG’s proposal of N60,000 per month. This is more so having regard to the impossibility of the private sector, especially small-scale businesses and private professions, having the capacity and economic wherewithal to pay such exorbitant wages. Another solution lies in public officeholders making deliberate sacrifices amid public angst and disenchantment by cutting down their ostentatiously vulgar lifestyle of ugly displays of opulence and their sheer exhibitionism of wealth in mindless convoys of vehicles in the midst of grinding poverty and wretchedness of the masses.

The Nigerian people are not happy at all. Anyone who advises the government to the contrary is nothing but a fawner, bootlicker, ego masseur, toady flatterer and clapper.





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