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Much ado about paying above N30,000 minimum wage

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Sir: There has been much angst, if laced with excitement among many public servants especially in those states where their governors have “promised” to pay above the N30,000 minimum wage. 

If a state pays above N30,000 every government worker in that state will have more money to take home. Right? Wrong!Many Nigerian workers forget that what was negotiated was not a pay raise but increase in the minimum wage. In truth government has no obligation to increase the pay of every Nigerian worker.

The raised minimum wage directly affects those in the lower rungs of the ladder. By this I mean those in grades 01 to 06. What benefits those in grades level 07 and above is the consequential adjustments. With the negotiations, from the outset the cards have been stacked against Nigerian workers, leaving them at the mercy of government. Labour as an organisation can only snarl it can’t bite. Nigerian labour law is still nebulous and allows for lacunae.

Government has many places to hide when it comes to negotiations on what Nigerians should be paid. For instance, the Labour Act of 2004 uses the word “wages” and that is what labour negotiates. But wages and salaries don’t mean the same. Wages are compensations given to mainly those who do hourly jobs often menial jobs, while salary is compensations given to workers for formal jobs done and usually paid monthly. In Nigeria it should be salary that should be negotiated and not wages until the labour law is amended.

Increasing minimum wage is good, but increasing salary is better. That’s when every Nigerian worker will reap the highest rewards. After everything may our take-home pay take us to our door.
Dr. Cosmas Odoemena wrote from Lagos.


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