FG rejects N494,000 wage demand, warns of N9.5tn economic burden

The Federal Government has declared the organised labour’s demand for a national minimum wage of N494,000 as economically unsustainable, warning it could destabilise the economy and negatively impact over 200 million Nigerians.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, stated this during a news conference in Abuja.

In a statement signed by his media aide Rabiu Ibrahim on Saturday, Idris emphasised that the proposed minimum wage would result in an annual expenditure of N9.5 trillion, a burden he described as untenable for the nation’s finances.

According to Idris, the government’s current offer is an N60,000 minimum wage, representing a 100 per cent increase from the 2019 rate, which has been accepted by the organised private sector involved in the wage negotiations.

“The Federal Government’s new minimum wage proposal amounts to a 100 per cent increase on the existing minimum wage in 2019. Labour, however, wanted N494,000, which would increase by 1,547 per cent on the existing wage.

“The sum of N494,000 national minimum wage which Labour is seeking would cumulatively amount to the sum N9.5 trillion bill to the Federal Government of Nigeria,” Idris said.

He stressed the potential economic fallout, including massive job losses, particularly in the private sector, if the labour demand was met.

“Nigerians need to understand that whereas the FG is desirous of ample remuneration for Nigerian workers, what is most critical is that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will not encourage any action that could lead to massive job loss, especially in the private sector, who may not be able to pay the wage demanded by the organised labour,” Idris stated.

The Minister pointed out that while labour was advocating for higher wages for approximately 1.2 million workers, the government’s priority was the welfare of the entire population, guided by principles of affordability and sustainability.

Idris called on organised labour to return to the negotiating table to agree on more reasonable and realistic wages.
He reiterated the Tinubu administration’s commitment to workers’ welfare, noting that the current wage award of N35,000 for federal workers will continue until a new national minimum wage is established.

On Friday, the Nigeria Labour Congress declared a nationwide indefinite strike starting at midnight on Sunday, June 2, 2024, due to the federal government’s refusal to increase the proposed minimum wage above N60,000.

The President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero, announced the strike following failed negotiations between the government and organized labour.

Despite the government’s final offer of N60,000, which included a recent increase from an initial N57,000, the labour unions found the proposal insufficient.

At the meeting, labour revised its demand, reducing it by N3,000 from the initial N497,000 proposed last week, setting the new proposal at N494,000.