The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, commenced dialogue with labour unions again in Abuja on Wednesday as time runs out on a deadline issued by labour for the payment of a new wage approved for workers by the Federal Government.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the meeting is the latest in a series of meetings with labour leader, to commence the payment of the consequential adjustment in the new minimum wage, signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari since April 18.
The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC) are participating in the latest meeting with Ngige.
On Oct. 7, labour leaders issued a communiqué, warning that economic activities would be shut down on Oct. 16, if the Federal Government failed to reconvene a meeting of the committee on consequential adjustments.
Speaking on Wednesday, the Secretary-General of the JNPSNC, Mr Alade Lawal, told a meeting of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria in Abuja that workers had started mobilising for a strike.
He said the partial implementation of the minimum wage for levels one to six was a ‘divide and rule’ system that would be vehemently opposed by labour.
“As far as I am concerned, nothing has been implemented. What are they implementing? We are negotiating something and somebody went behind to start issuing one circular.
“As far as we are concerned, nothing has been done and if you want to look at it, levels one to three has been out-sourced.
How many people are there? So when you even look at the circular, it is full of errors. As far as we are concerned, no circular has been issued.
“You have a salary structure, you have a ratio between the minimum and the maximum when the minimum was 18,000, you have what you have at the maximum, then you have tilted the minimum to 30,000, are you going to leave the table there?
“It is distortion. You don’t allow distortion and it’s not allowed anywhere in the world. That is why you do consequential adjustment,’’ he argued.
Lawal pointed out that organised labour was not opposed to discussion, consultations or anything.
He said that what was worrisome was the delay in reconvening the meeting of the committee on consequential adjustment.
“In the communiqué, issued last week by TUC, NLC and the Joint Council, we were asking the government to reconvene the committee and within one week, let the committee complete its assignment.
“As labour, we are not adverse to discussion, consultations or anything. But they are yet to reconvene the main meeting of the committee.
“What I am saying is that the minister is free to call us. We will go. We are hoping that maybe he wants to use it to talk to the two sides before reconvening the meeting.
“What I am saying is that you can’t sign any agreement in an informal meeting until you reconvene the meeting of the committee handling the negotiation on consequential adjustment.
“Anytime from Oct. 17, the leadership of labour will give a directive to members nationwide on what to do.
“The measure of seriousness can only be seen if something concrete is done between now and Oct. 16. We are not part of the government. We don’t know what they are doing.
“We can’t preempt them. So let’s see what happens between now and the 16th. If after the 16th and nothing is done, maybe, we can start rationalising.”
NAN reports that the implementation of the new wage has remained a problem, arising from the issue of relativity and consequential adjustments.
On May 14, the Federal Government inaugurated the relativity and consequential adjustment committee, which in turn set up a technical sub-committee to work out a template for the adjustment of salaries of public service employees.
However, government and labour have failed to reach an agreement over relativity and consequential adjustments for the implementation of the new minimum wage more than six months after it was signed into law. (NAN)