September 26, 2019

Minimum Wage: Ngige appeals to Labour to consider bad economic situation

labour laws

Dr. Chris Ngige, Labour and Employment Minister

…Says Ministry has right to register unions

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige on Wednesday appealed to the organised Labour to put into consideration the bad economic situation while negotiating for consequential adjustment.
Ngige, , Wage

Chris Ngige

The Minister also said that the Federal Government was determined to conclude negotiations on Consequential Adjustment to avoid having the problem of backlogs.
Senator Ngige who stated this when he received in audience the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, that paid him a congratulatory visit, said that a worker deserves payment that is commensurate with his labour.
The Minister, flanked by the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Williams Alor and departmental heads also said that there should be an agreement between labour and government in arriving at the consequential adjustment.


He said that the economy should be put into consideration in any decision to be reached and stressed the need to expedite action in order not to create problems for the government.
He told the leadership of NLC that the ministry has the right to register unions and that he would exercise the functions in accordance with the law.
According to him, “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 7 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 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 N30,000 to the person on level One step 1, when that N30,000 was what some other was getting when he was on level Seven, 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 takes, 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.”
He said that the issue of National minimum wage decision was very storny and that in the course of that, tempers flared and there were misgivings and all of that, but finally, there was a standpoint that gave 66.7 per cent rise, from N18, 000 to N30, 000.
He said, “I was the chief negotiator from the Government’s side, I wasn’t supposed to. Because of the double cap I was wearing, and the President of the nation was very magnanimous and he supported me and supported the minimum wage committee, and provided us with every tool that will enable us to meet as when due, and signed the bill from the National Assembly into law April 18, 2019


“We all went to the National Assembly, the unions, and employers association all went and agreed to this 30,000.
” We also told you that implementation will be smooth and immediately moved a memo to council (Federal Executive Council) and council approved it, and we put in a negotiating committee, government side, requested the head of service to contact the Joint Public Service Negotiating Council for us to start, and a committee was inaugurated in the office of the SGF, late April.
“The committee started work. I was a member, the Finance Minister was a member, budget and planning was a member, but our council died on 29th May, with the expiration of time, we were dissolved, the budget and planning minister didn’t come back, the permanent secretary took my place and started the negotiations.
“I do not want to say that they didn’t make progress, they made progress because at least, from levels 1 to six, they got something, and from the time we were coming back, we saw that they were making progress, unfortunately, the head of service, the chair of that committee had to go on compulsory leave and it is not easy when some other person is going to act and move in.
“Before I got into this meeting, I tried to look for the Secretary to the government of the federation, because the logical thing for us to do since we have all agreed is to reconstitute our own representation, they have to hand over to us, wherever they stopped.
“Luckily, the President has also put in place a new committee, called Presidential Committee on Salaries (PCS), The former head of service reported to us on progress.
“It is important that we advise them that if they keep on piling debts, the federal government might go into the 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 level 1-6, and they are plenty, when we reconstitute our committee, I do not see us not agreeing, we can disagree, but we will eventually agree, but we will come back, we know ourselves.”
On union registration, Ngige said,” The laws of the land permits this ministry to exercise some elastic movement, because nothing is static in life, you will not say that unions will not come up, they must come up, because there are going to be new Unionisation in places, especially those who didn’t want to unionise before against the conventions.
“So, once those people unionise and they were not in a trade union cadre that has been unionised before, we will register them, it is our function to do so, it is also within our powers to regroup. If a union is amorphous, I belong to a union, the Nigeria Union of Pensioners as a civil servant.
“No, The law of the country doesn’t say that, what has happened is that we will exercise our functions, we will bring our functions to you for advice at the national level advisory council, the council cannot take over the functions and powers of the Ministry of Labour and Employment or the minister.”
Speaking earlier, President of NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said the union had a mandate of triapatism to defend, promote and protect the rights of workers.
Wabba said the union had 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.
He 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 OTUAA, saying this would promote pan Africanism in the region.
He said Kenyan President, Dr Jomo 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 speed up processes to enable all workers to benefit from the addition.