The Minister of Labour and Employment, Nkiruka Onyejeocha, has provided assurance to Nigerian workers regarding the continuity of the N35,000 wage award approved by the Federal Government until a new minimum wage agreement is finalized. This commitment comes amidst ongoing concerns and uncertainties about the wage award, which was initially introduced in October last year as a measure to alleviate the economic hardship resulting from the removal of the petrol subsidy.

Addressing reporters on Monday, Onyejeocha appealed to members of the organised labour unions, who had initiated a nationwide strike, to suspend their actions and return to the negotiating table. She emphasized that the government has no intention of discontinuing the wage award before a new minimum wage is settled.

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“I have reiterated countless times that labour members are Nigerians just like the rest of us, and there is complete transparency on the part of the Federal Government. Our books are open, and negotiations have not ceased,” Onyejeocha stated. “We earnestly urge them to return to the table so that we can finalize these discussions, ensuring that Nigerian workers are fully aware of their standing. The N35,000 wage award remains in effect, and the Federal Government will continue to pay it until the new minimum wage is agreed upon.”

Onyejeocha further clarified that any new minimum wage would be retroactive to April 18th, ensuring that workers do not lose any accrued benefits from the expiration of the previous wage structure. “If the minimum wage agreement concludes today, we will apply it retroactively from when the old one ended, so workers will not miss out on anything,” she assured.

The backdrop to this assurance is the ongoing industrial action by organised labour, which began on Monday after prolonged negotiations with the Federal Government failed to yield a new minimum wage agreement. The strike has significantly disrupted economic activities across the country.

The Minister expressed her belief that the strike was unnecessary, given the government’s ongoing efforts to improve the welfare of Nigerians, including those within the labour unions. “We believe that the labour unions’ decision to strike was premature, as the government is committed to ensuring the well-being of all Nigerians, including union members. We are actively engaging with labour leaders to demonstrate that striking is not the most effective solution at this time,” Onyejeocha noted.

The deadlock in negotiations arose after labour proposed a new minimum wage of ₦494,000, while the Federal Government countered with an offer of ₦60,000, which represents a 100 percent increase from the current ₦30,000 minimum wage. This significant gap in proposed figures led to labour representatives walking out of the discussions and subsequently declaring the nationwide strike.

Onyejeocha’s appeal highlights the government’s readiness to continue discussions and resolve the impasse amicably. She underscored the importance of reaching a consensus that reflects the economic realities and meets the needs of Nigerian workers. The government, she said, remains open and willing to negotiate in good faith, urging the labour unions to return to the table to finalize a fair and sustainable wage structure.

In conclusion, the Minister’s reassurances are a call for renewed dialogue and cooperation between the government and labour unions. By coming back to the negotiation table, both parties can work towards a resolution that not only addresses the immediate concerns of Nigerian workers but also ensures long-term economic stability and growth for the country.