—TUC wants minimum wage review
—Govt promises to set up tripartite committee to review minimum wage
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja
The meeting between the Federal Government and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, on subsidy removal on Sunday was adjourned to Tuesday for the two parties to consider different demands nade.
This is as the government has said that a lot of demands made by the organised labour in respect of the subsidy removal are not impracticable.
The TUC, at the meeting has demanded a review of the minimum wage to reflect the economic realities of the time and the government promised to set up a tripartite committee to that effect.
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting that was held at the Conference Hall of the Chief of Staff to the President at the presidential villa, Abuja, the leader of the government delegation, Dele Alake said that the meeting went smoothly with some demands made from both parties.
Though he said that some of the demands of the TUC, were not impracticable, the demands would be presented to President Bola Tinubu.
He said the two parties agreed to reconvene on Tuesday to consider the demands
According to him, “Well, as you all know, we had this reconvened meeting today as we promised you few days ago when we had the initial meeting with the Labour movement.
“We said we were going to reconvened today to keep the engagement on in order to diffuse the tension in the land as a result of the withdrawal of subsidy, which is a reality.
“Now, we are very happy to announced to Nigerians that this engagement has been very productive. The TUC that attended today’s meeting presented a list of demands and those demands we have studied and we are going to present to Mr President, for his consideration.
“But those demands we can announce to Nigerians that a lot of the items on the list, are not impracticable. What we need to do is to study the numbers very well. Then, we have asked the TUC to also give us a leeway to consult very exhaustively and reconvene on Tuesday to actually look at the numbers, viability, practicability of all the items that have been presented to us.
“Now, most important and top priority on the list which the government is also looking at very seriously and the president has announced before, is the issue of the minimum wage which the Labour movement has demanded is the consequential impact of this removal of subsidy.
“So, government is to look at that and Mr President is most likely going to constitute a tripartite committee, that is a committee of federal government, including the state and then the organised Labour and the private sector.
“Now, this is a tripartite arrangement, it will be a committee that will study all the dynamics of a wage increase in percentages, the numbers and the categories that will be affected.
“So, by Tuesday when we come back to reconvene, to meet with the TUC again, we should have very concrete items to present to the world. But the most important thing for today is that we are making appreciable progress with the Labour.”
On the other demands beyond the minimum wage, he said, “It is a list but we are not going to be listing all of them now. The most important is the minimum wage, that is increase of minimum wage. Because, when this thing is removed, the argument of Labour is that there is an immediate impact on the workers, on the purchasing power because price of fuel has gone up.
“So, that will necessarily reduced the purchasing power of the average worker. So, the next thing of immediate consequence is to increase the purchasing power of the worker. So that to me and to all of us on this side is the top most priority on the list.
“There are other things like the tax holidays which some categories of workers will be beneficiaries. But the most important is the minimum wage.”
Asked if the government team is negotiating separately with the NLC, he said, “No we are not but we are making efforts to reach NLC. We all agreed that we are going to meet here but again, in this game there are dynamics, sometime they could be meeting with their own executive and not able to meet with us, or they could want to postpone or they have not actually articulated their list of demands as the TUC.
“But we cannot second guess why they are not here. But efforts are being made to reach them, we are not isolating them at all.”
Further asked how soon will the committee be set up, he said, “Very very soon. We are going to meet Mr President now and we are going to give him a feedback on this and he is going to take an immediate decision.
“And like I said, Mr President himself, you all reported him, he has said that there will be a review of the minimum wage, you are reported it.
“So, we are not in disagreement with labour at all on that on that particular issue.”
On whether the allegation made by one
of the President’s spokesman, Bayo Onanuga accusing the NLC of pandering to the wishes of Peter Obi, was discussed at the meeting, Alake said, “No not at all. It has no relevance to the discussion on the concrete terms of the welfare of the workers. Our discussion was majorly on the welfare of workers, how to cushion the impact of this subsidy removal on workers that’s all. Not on any political partisanship.”
Further asked who is leading the government team in this negotiation, he simply said, “Of course you can see all of us here, you can see the GCEO of NNPC, you can see some of us who have been mandated by the president. And don’t forget that a presidential system of government is executive in capacity.
“The president can appoint anybody, he can even appoint consultants to act on his behalf, so there is no issue about that. It is not actually germane.”
While fielding question on whether the government team was able to convince labour to shelve the proposed strike, he said, “Of course we discussed that, and that is why we are still going to reconvene on Tuesday and that is appreciable progress.”
Also on whether the labour’s demand that the government should revert to the old pump price of the Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, he said, “Of course we did. We touched on that, everybody looked at the practicability of that, the viability and otherwise. Now, the issue is that we will close all of those ones on Tuesday when we reconvene. Concrete decisions will be taken about that and then we will reach logical conclusions.”
Also speaking, the President of TUC, Festus Osifo said that among the demands presented to government was the issue of review of the minimum wage.
He said, “Government told us the reason why they did what they did but we did not agree with them, they presented some of the things they considered as palliatives, those are the things they presented to us that we should consider them in the meeting, but we told them no, that we cannot consider them in that meeting, they we are going back to call our respective organs.
“So we went back, we called the NEC of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria on Friday and during the meeting, the NEC of TUC decided that because we have already told government as at Wednesday that we are taking their demands back, we want to go and look at them because they asked us what was our demand, we said we didn’t have the mandate as at then.
“We went back, we called our meeting on Friday, we had extensive deliberations and our NEC now mandated us with some lists of demands to come and meet with the government today.
“The meeting we have just concluded, we have detailed and marshalled out the list of our demands to them. They also in turn told us that when they presented the items to us on.”
“They also in turn told us that when they presented the items to us on Wednesday we told them that we were going back to our principals, so they also need to touch base with Mr President so that we’ll reconvene this meeting again on Tuesday.
“Topmost in our demands was clearly stated, that for utmost good faith and in the interest of social dialogue, that they should revert to back the pump price while discussions continues”
On why NLC was not at the meeting, Osifo said, “Because when you call an organ meeting and organ takes a life of its own, the decision of your organ is what you are expected to implement. All of us here today are agents of NEC of TUC, the NEC of TUC took a decision and that decision is what we’re trying to push through.”
Asked whether TUC was satisfied with discussion so far reached, he said, “Yes, we have presented the list of our demands to them and they received it in good faith that they will go back to their principal and come back to us on Tuesday. So we’re hopeful that the demands that we have presented will be reviewed in the best interest of Nigerian workers and the entire Nigerian masses”.
Speaking further he said, “The demands are so long, they are so many, part of it is the demand for a (review) of the minimum wage and we stated that for us, quite apt that the minimum today is not a living wage, as we all know. The value of the minimum wage since it was negotiated, has plummeted to a very abysmal level, as it is today.
“Because they are going back to Mr President, we also think that we should also give them that benefit of doubt because the things we presented to them the last time, they did not also reveal it before the press so it is also quite apt for them to go back, maybe when we meet on Tuesday, we can dissect them one after the other and be much more specific.”