New wage: Showdown As Workers, Govt Stick To Guns

LABOUR and the Federal Government head for a battle when they meet tomorrow over the implementation of the N30,000 new minimum wage.

President Muhammadu Buhari signed the minimum wage bill into law in April but the Federal Government commenced payment to workers on levels 1-6 in August. Minister of Labour and Employment Dr. Chris Ngige, said arrears from April would be paid subsequently.

There is disagreement on the percentage of increment for workers on levels 7 to 17.

The Federal Government is offering 11 per cent for 7 to 14 and 6.5 per cent for 15 to17. The governors are offering nine per cent while Labour is demanding between 24 per cent and 29 per cent.

Labour has given an October 16 ultimatum for the full implementation of the new wage to all categories of workers otherwise it will declare a strike.

Tomorrow’s meeting to negotiate the consequential adjustment will be between the Federal Government and the leadership of organised labour comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC).

Confirming that the meeting will hold after the 2020 budget presentation at the National Assembly by President Buhari, Dr. Ngige said: “The Federal Government will on Tuesday make available its books –  income and expenditure – as per  2019 and the 2020 proposal.

“Let labour look at the books first and we shall proceed from there.”

The minister said he was hopeful that an agreement would be reached by all parties involved in the negotiation.

He noted that there was no major dispute yet that would warrant a strike by the organised labour.

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But, the Secretary of JNPSNC Alade Lawal, said Labour was not interested in looking at government’s books.

Lawal said: “They don’t have any books to open to us. They have been parading figures, throwing us a lot of things. Which books are they going to show again?

“If they call us on Tuesday we should be able to wrap up by Friday. Any elongation will not be entertained by labour.

“We will be demanding our position as contained in our communique; 29 per cent salary adjustment for officers on levels 7-14 and 24 per cent for officers on level 15-17.”

The Federal Government has until October 16 to resolve all issues surrounding the consequential adjustment of salaries for the implementation of the minimum wage.

The TUC President, Quadri Olaleye, said: “There is no new demand. We are not changing our mandate. Our mandate is 29 per cent for workers on level 7-14 while levels 15-17 remains at 24 per cent.

“If we have to shift ground, you must have something to prove that government cannot pay.

“If they remove the lies from the 1.3 million workers they say they have, then, they will see that they don’t need that figure (N580 billion) to pay workers. They have to give us a breakdown of the workforce.

“We have given them an ultimatum. The window is still open. They should do whatever they can do before then but once we cannot agree before October 16, then, we will go on strike.”

The Federal Government last week threatened that should, Labour force it to pay the wage bill as demanded, N580 billion will be required which the government cannot afford.

The alternative, according to him, Ngige be to retrench some workers. But, Labour promptly rejected the sack option.
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