By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has again appealed to organised labour and the Joint National Public Service, Negotiating Council, JNPSNC, to shelve the proposed strike, promising that the Federal Government was working hard to resolve the issues over the contentious consequential adjustment.
Already the Federal Government team led by the Minister and the JNPSNC were locked in a marathon meeting last yesterday to resolve the controversy over the consequential movement on the new national minimum wage.
The meeting which the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige had on Monday during a consultative meeting with the organized labour to soften the ground for the negotiation parley said would likely stay long in a bid to address all the contentious issues, was described as make or mar as its outcome would likely determine the workers unions next line of action over the threat to go on strike.
Recall that the organised labour had last week issued a threat to embark on a nationwide industrial action should the government fail to show commitment to the full implementation of the new minimum wage on or before October 16.
In his opening remarks, Senator Ngige who is conciliatory appealed to the organised labour to show some understanding, adding that the discussion centres on fixing the minimum wage.
He said, “I appeal that the Sword of Damocles of strike you should bring it down.
”Collective adjustment is like collective bargaining but has its own limitation. Let’s look at the issue and we will resolve.”
Also speaking, the Secretary-General of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Musa Aliyu Ozigi, said the union has come with an open mind to discuss the issues even as he prayed that the meeting will resolve the lingering issues.
On his side, the General Secretary of Trade Union Congress, TUC, Comrade Musa Lawal-Ozigi said it is not right for a government to exist and the workers will be suffering.
He said, ”To avoid crisis, it is important to make the workers happy.”
In his own remarks before the meeting entered into a technical session, the acting Head of Service, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan also appealed to labour to appreciate the position of the government, stressing that both the government and labour unions want improved welfare for the workers.
She said ”There is no different side here, the president is worried about the welfare workers too so we will have a fruitful deliberation. ”
Also speaking, leader of the JNPSNC, Simon Anchaver, lamented that the negotiation has taken five months even as he called on the government to do all things necessary to resolve the matter and avert the strike.
Some of the contentious issues include the alleged delay in the full implementation of the minimum wage as a result of the disagreement between labour and government on Consequential movement especially for workers on Grade Level 7-17
Labour is demanding a 29 per cent salary increase for officers on salary level 07 to 14 and 24 per cent adjustment for officers on salary grade level 15 to 17.
But the federal government had presented a proposal of 11 per cent salary increase for officers on grade level 07 to14 and 6.5 per cent adjustment for workers of grade level 15 to 17.
Others present include; Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Emma Ugboaja, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Labour and Employment, William Alo, Acting Chairman of the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta among others.
Recall that the negotiations have broken down severally as the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) after receiving briefing from the JNPSNC, issued a statement recently warning that if the issues of the consequential adjustment were not addressed by Wednesday, October 16, the Labour movement will have no other alternative than to call its members nationwide to embark on a total strike.
Although grade levels 1-6 according to the government have started receiving their salary increase of N30,000 minimum wage from N18,000, since the new minimum wage was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 18, Labour is demanding a 29% adjustment on the salary of grade level 7-14. It also demands for a salary increase of 24% for grade level 15 -17, while the government is offering 11% for the level 7-14 and 6.5% for level 15 -17.
The Minister, Ngige asked the labour leaders to consider the dire Economic straits confronting the nation, saying ” the meteoric rise in of recurrent expenditure especially personnel cost is worrisome. Today our budget presented to the National Assembly has 76 per cent for recruitment expenditure and 24 per cent for capital expenditure, it doesn’t call for cheers.