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Trade unions win minimum wage increase in Nigeria

The ITUC has welcomed progress towards a minimum wage increase of sixty-six per cent in Nigeria. Trade unions won parliamentary support for the improvement amid last minute attempts to dilute the terms of the jointly agreed increase.

“This is great news, and coming from Africa’s most populous country, it provides inspiration for the whole region and beyond. Workers mobilised, through their unions, to stop the agreement reached with the government and employers from being undermined,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

The new national minimum wage in Nigeria is set to increase to NGN 30,000 (approximately USD 87 per month). While it covers a majority of workers, unions oppose clauses that exclude workers in smaller companies. This was initially agreed through negotiations between workers’, employers’ and government representatives. Subsequently, however, the government threatened to undermine the negotiations by unilaterally reducing the amount to NGN 27,000.

In response, the Nigerian trade union movement mobilised working people in protests at state level and called for a general strike. Finally, union lobbying at the House of Representatives led to support for the agreed amount, which now needs only the ratification of the Senate.

“In this battle for the new national minimum wage, all of us are winners, nobody is a loser,” said Ayuba Wabba, President of the ITUC and President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, the country’s largest trade union centre.

“This increase will have an immediate impact on spreading the benefits of Nigeria’s expanding economy, not least because the money will be spent in local communities, producing a positive effect that resonates through society and stimulates the economy,” said Burrow.

Minimum wages play a key role in sharing prosperity. By building purchasing power, they have an important multiplier effect at a local level, which is not picked up by crude economic indicators such as GDP. Furthermore, when they are delivered through tripartite negotiations, evidence shows they build the social consensus and reinforce the institutional stability that are crucial components of sustainable development.

“This agreement is an important step in the right direction, and we congratulate our Nigerian colleagues on the result. We encourage other countries where minimum wages are insufficient to heed this example and negotiate a living minimum wage with unions,” said Burrow.

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