Minimum Wage: FG to reconstitute committee

Labour Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige

Dr Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment says the Federal Government will reconstitute a new committee to begin fresh negotiations for full implementation of the new national minimum wage.

Ngige made this known when the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress paid him a courtesy visit on Thursday in Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that there have been issues with partial implementation of the wage, following reports of commencement of payments for workers from level one to six.

He said that it was important for workers earning above N30, 000 and on grade level seven to 17 to be patient as the consequential adjustment of the minimum wage implementation was being sorted out.

“I am one of those who believe that a workman is due his wages, if you work in a vineyard, you will eat from that vineyard, and you will eat all of the fruits that are in the vineyard.

“The issue of the national minimum wage will be sorted out for those other cadres, and I am very hopeful that it will be done as soon as possible.

“The unions of NLC and TUC have not been involved, but when we come back, we will involve you, so that we can have a speedy movement in this respect.

“It is unfortunate that negotiations were deadlocked from levels seven to till 17, and issues became on what percentage or slides that they should use on the sliding scale.

“The bad thing is that we are going to discuss and negotiate it, it is a Collective Bargaining Arrangement (CBA), because if we talk strictly about the minimum wage, it is already being implemented because the minimum wage is for the person on the lower rung of the ladder.”

The minister called on Nigerians and the proposed negotiation committee to be realistic in their demands, saying “the economy is in dire need of support and the provisions of the fiscal responsibility law cautions government on spending and debts.’’

“The consequential adjustment that is following it must also be reflected, they must be done because you have impinged on other people’s scale.

“For example, you pay 30,000 to the person on level one, when that 30,000 was what some other was getting when he was on level 7, it doesn’t fly, so there must be a consequential adjustment and government is not averse to the consequential adjustment.

“What we are saying is that we should try for all parties to agree, that the economy is in doldrums, that the economy has some troubles, and therefore, we have to cut our coat according to our cloth, that is the most important thing.

“There are so many things about the salaries of workers, which we as a government cannot say; some of them can impinge on the fiscal responsibility law, because that law makes provision for what a current expenditure can be.

“And what loans government take and can be used for, those are the critical issues, and we are trying to balance them.  We must do the balancing so we don’t run foul of our laws.”

“Contrary to reports that the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC) and the representatives of the Federal Government didn’t make any progress on wage implementation, and the president has set up a Presidential Committee on Salaries (PCS), to consolidate on efforts made for the benefit of workers.’’

Ngige hinted that it would be beneficial and important for the committee to fast track processes to reduce burden of arrears on Federal Government and state governments.

“It is important that we advise them that if they keep on piling debts, the federal government might go into problem of payments, the state governments that have always not been regular with payments will have problem.

“The best thing to do is for them to send down this to the state and show the example by paying.

“The state government as at today are duty bound, and they now have the template to pay levels one to six, and they are plenty, when we reconstitute our committee, I do not see us not agreeing, we can disagree, but we will eventually agree.”

On unemployment crises, Ngige urged the organised labour to intervene in stemming the issue and its implications, saying government alone could not fill the gaps.

NLC President, Dr Ayuba Wabba, said the union had a mandate of tripartite arrangement to defend, promote and protect the rights of workers.

According to him, the union has learnt lessons from its past and will work to ensure that democratic institutions thrive and promote industrial peace and harmony.

He listed concerns of casualisation of workers, outsourcing of jobs, and also said the future of work was being threatened by technology.

Wabba stressed the need to institutionalise social dialogue in conformity with the ILO Conventions, adding that this would help to promote industrial harmony and peace when disagreement occurs.

He called on the minister to intervene in payment of subventions to strengthen Nigeria’s efforts at the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity, saying this would promote pan Africanism in the region.

He said Kenyan President, Dr Uhuru Kenyatta, had pledged a grant of 200 dollars to strengthen unionism in the region and foster regional development.

On the partial implementation of the new minimum wage, Wabba urged the minister to speedy up processes to enable all workers benefit from the addition.