By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Explains why it may not be above N25,000
ABUJA—AS Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, pushes for implementation of a new minimum wage in the country, the Federal Government has assured that it would soon come out with a definite figure that will be payable by both the governments and the private sector.
But the government said the figure may not be above N25,000, explaining that the benchmark was being considered in order not to cause unemployment as pegging minimum wage beyond the figure may result in many workers in the private sector losing their jobs.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, who dropped the hint at a news conference in Abuja, yesterday, also flayed the labour union for its latest ultimatum to the Federal Government.
He also noted that the National Minimum Wage Committee set up by the Federal Government was still working within its timelines.
The minister said the latest ultimatum handed the government by the leadership of the NLC was a blackmail.
Ngige said he and chairman of the committee on the new minimum wage and former Head of Service of the Federation, Ms Amma Pepple, will brief President Muhammadu Buhari today on the progress so far made by the committee.
Ngige, who was reacting to the two weeks ultimatum issued by organised labour accusing the government of stalling negotiation, said the ultimatum issued by the labour leaders was unnecessary as the committee was working within the time frame it set for itself, pointing that he regarded the ultimatum by labour as a subtle threat.
He said the various conventions of the International Labour Organisation that has to do with minimum wage and other forms of negotiations do not allow partners to issue threats as the other partner will be regarded as negotiating under duress.
He said the work of the committee, including a draft bill to be sent to the President and subsequently to the National Assembly and all other work of the committee, were ready except the issue of a particular figure to be agreed upon.
He disclosed that while it was easy for organised labour to agree on a figure, it was not that easy for the government as it must put into consideration the economic situation in the country and the ability of the various state governors to pay the agreed figure.
He said while organised labour first made a presentation of N56,000 as its demand, only to withdraw it and made another presentation of N65,000, the organised private sector made a presentation of N42,000 and later withdraw it for lower presentation of N25,000.
Ngige said with all the presentations, the government need to look at everything that has been presented before arriving at a figure, which can be paid by all, saying: “If we arrive at a figure that is not implementable, what then is the essence of negotiation.”
He explained that at the last meeting of the committee, he requested for two weeks to consult with members of the Economic Management team, most of whom were out of the country with the President, adding that the committee was inaugurated by the president because of his personal interest on the matter.
“We don’t want people to renege on the agreement when we finally come up with something. That is why the President insisted that the governors must be part of the process. They had complained that they were not part of the last process,”he said.
While accusing organised Labour of trying to over heat the polity, Ngige said the Buhari government was a worker friendly government , adding that no worker has been sacked since the inception of the present government while also putting in place several palliatives for workers.
He said that the federal government spent about N70 billion last year in settling the backlog of workers emoluments, while encouraging the private sector to grow and employ more workers.