The federal government yesterday said the only way to meet the demands of organised labour as stated in its consequential adjustment of the new minimum wage, would be to lay off some workers.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, who made this known when a delegation of the United Labour Congress (ULC), led by its president, Comrade Joe Ajaero, paid a courtesy call to congratulate the minister on his reappointment, however said government would not want to do that.
Ngige who raised concerns that the N580billion labour was demanding as consequential adjustment was not sustainable, appealed to the labour leaders to reach a balance with government in order to avoid a situation where government would be pushed against its will to inflict more hardship on Nigerians.
He said: “We are appealing to you to talk to your members in the Joint Negotiating Committee to see reason and balance the situation. The submission of N580 billion which is what the adjustment they are asking for will translate to, as increment is not sustainable.
“Government has done their own homework and brought out what they can use to defend this consequential adjustment. Grade 1 to 6 does not have any problem, but 7 to 14 band and 15 to 17 band this is where we have the problem.
“Once you finish a minimum wage and go into consequential adjustment you are trying to reach a collective bargaining agreement.
“So if you push government to go and accede to an increment which its resources cannot accommodate, you are indirectly asking them to retrench workers so that the few that are remaining will get this big money.
“We don’t want that, from 2015 the president has made it clear that he is not out to inflict pains on Nigerians and that he does not want to create unemployment but even at that our increase in population is galloping and our resources is not consequentially increasing to meet up, that is why we have a lot of unemployed youths on the street today.
“We need to arrive at an agreement as soon as possible so that we can use the 2019 budget allocation to defend this consequential adjustment because it will be bad if we are unable to do it and we finish this financial year by December because the budget circle is going to return to January/December 2020 so we have three months only before this recurrent funds are swept back into government treasury, that is the law.”
Ngige urged organised labour to embrace social dialogue which according to him necessitated the renegotiation of the new minimum wage and the payment of backlogs of salaries and allowances to the tune of N500 billion between 2016 till date, owed by the previous administration.
“We had so many scenarios that necessitated our disagreeing sometimes very violently, at the end of the day we all agreed whether it was during the increase in petroleum prices in 2016.
“I was new as minister, we met ourselves, we disagreed, one group of workers union walked out and two groups stayed and discussed with us in the spirit of social dialogue which is the major mechanism for trade dispute and at the end of the day we arrived at some decisions,” he said. He noted that they agreed to set up a technical committee to give recommendations on palliatives that government will enforce or implement to make sure that the increase of prices does not weigh down workers.
He said from the technical committee they were able to agree that all salaries and allowances owed by the previous government will be paid and government started its implementation religiously.
Earlier, the president ULC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, raised concerns over the plight of workers in the private sector and appealed that they should equally be considered in the new minimum wage and consequential adjustment arrangements.
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