The federal government and the organised labour may be headed for another industrial crisis after both sides yesterday disagreed on the subject of N30,000 new minimum wage.
The minister of labour and productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, had yesterday denied media reports that the federal government had agreed on N30, 000 minimum wage with organised labour.
However, the organised labour, comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Labour Congress (ULC), yesterday issued a statement in which it insisted that the tripartite committee negotiating the new wage had concluded its work, adopted the figure through a formal motion.
In a statement jointly signed NLC president, Ayuba Wabba; TUC president, Bala Bobboi Kaigama, and ULC president, Comrade Joe Ajaero, the unions threatened to resume its strike after it accused the federal government of “manipulating and bending of facts” to delay the process of passing a new minimum wage.
Ngige, who made the denial after the federal executive council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja, stated that negotiations were still ongoing and that the parties involved were yet to come to a consensus, adding that state governors and all principal actors have to be carried along.
He further explained that during negotiations with organised labour the figures were adjusted as the labour unions adjusted their figure and came down to N30,000 per month, while the organised private sectors also adjusted their figure from the earlier proposed N30,000 to N25,000.
Noting that governors had their own figure, which was different from the figure of the federal government, Ngige said both the federal government and state governors’ figures were also presented.
He, however, noted that the cardinal principle of wage fixing mechanism under the International Labour Congress (ILO) was the ability to pay.
According to him, under convention 131, the fixing mechanism says that there must be consensual agreement.
“So we have a figure of the federal government and the state governments have theirs. The state government figure at the last time was N20,000, the federal government had a figure of N24,000 and that was where we all stood.
“This negotiation took into account this irreducible offers on the different governments but we could not arrive at a consensus. Even though we adjourned our meeting and said we will put up a report that will reflect this position, we are still continuing to discuss informally to see if we can arrive at a common figure,” Ngige explained.
The minister added that the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission had done its work and presented it to the economic management team, adding that discussions were ongoing.
“This information becomes very pertinent because I saw all your papers, the dailies yesterday awash with the news that we have all agreed on N30,000; that is not true. The federal government has not agreed on N30,000.
“The federal government is also carrying the states along with them because a lot of the workers are in the states and it’s a very sensitive matter; we cannot, because the issue of minimum wage is item 34 and an exclusive legislation by the federal government.
“So it’s a bi-focal arrangement. The federal government, through the National Assembly, cannot go and fix an amount which the states will find difficult to pay, resulting maybe in the retrenchment of workers in the states,” the minister said, noting that President Buhari had always reiterated that no worker should be retrenched during his administration.
“No worker will be denied his promotion for as long as this administration is on and recruitment to replace people who have retired or people who are dead should continue to be done so that we face the issue of unemployment and do what we can through such recruitment. So this is the situation,” he added.
But contrary to Ngige’s position, the Labour leaders have insisted that they have an agreement with the federal government on N30,000 new minimum wage.
According to the statement by the workers’ unions, this was after a thorough debate of a report from the sub-committee figure, chaired by Sen Ngige himself.
The statement reads in part, “the Sub-committee worked on the basis of a figure proposed by the federal government, figures proposed by a number of state governments as well as proposals submitted by the organised private sector and organised labour.”
They contend that the committee formally adjourned its sitting with a decision that a date will be communicated to members for the signing of the report and submission of same to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The organised labour expressed shock at the statement credited to the Labour minister, describing it as “unfortunate and sad.”
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