Yesterday, I sent a brief to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) through my non-profit African Institution of Technology. In the brief, I provided some indicators and anchors on how the labour union could engage with the federal and state governments on the minimum wage negotiations. A key part of my brief focused on using data to make its case. As things stand, NLC is not communicating well despite the trumpet it is blowing.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has pledged commitment to workers welfare while appealing to the Federal Government to urgently transmit the bill on the new national minimum wage to the National Assembly.
Ayuba Wabba, NLC president, made the appeal in a New Year message on Tuesday in Abuja.
According to him, 2018 remains one of the most traumatic for workers especially given the failure of government to enact and implement the new national minimum wage of N30,000.
First, it is sheer lack of awareness to expect the governor of Zamfara state to agree to pay the same minimum wage as the governor of Lagos state. Yes, I do not expect Abia State governor to agree on any deal signed by the governor of Rivers State on minimum wage. Largely, Nigeria should not and cannot have a flat minimum wage: states should look at these elements with local data and conclude what makes sense. It is unfortunate that NLC has not figured that out with its one-size minimum wage for Nigeria.
I dropped some useful insights. When I started my business, my office was in Lagos. But within months, I realized that we were wasting money in Lagos having our engineers there. Lagos did not offer any competitive advantage to our technical team but was stressing everyone out. We moved to Owerri where money that cannot afford a decent one-bedroom apartment in Lagos can give you a 3-bedroom apartment in the best neighborhood. My team cheered because that relocation added 20% to their purchasing power especially on housing. Simply, living expenses in Nigeria vary and no state governor would agree to be in bondage to another’s.
So, for NLC, it has to rework its numbers with local data. A state level model is what makes sense if it expects to come out of this paralysis. Throwing N30,000 monthly minimum wage, and expecting Zamfara state and River state governors to converge is not a smart strategy. Possibly, Zamfara could pay N25,000 per month while Lagos state could even go for N45,000.
Sure – NLC posits that N30,000 is the minimum each state should pay. Unfortunately, if that is the case, no one would agree to add a kobo above that N30,000. In that case, while Abia state workers may be better, nothing has changed for workers in Rivers and Lagos states.
Of course, I am not a labour advocate: I am an employer of labour. Nonetheless, I struggle when extremely smart person keep talking and barely making time to listen: strikes will not suddenly make the cost of living in Lagos state to be the same as Zamfara state. And the same strikes will not upgrade the revenue capacity of Abia state to be at parity with Rivers State. If my state governor in Abia state agrees to the same minimum wage with the governor of Lagos, I will question his judgment. NLC should appreciate this at state level.