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15 October 2019

Anxiety as new wage talks hold today

 

It is make or break today as the Federal Government and organised labour meet over the new minimum wage.

Labour leaders on Monday met with Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige.

Although Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) General Secretary Emmanuel Ugboaja said Labour would go into Tuesday’s meeting with an open mind, it is clear from their body language that they have lost hope of a ‘favourable outcome’.

Ugboaja added that if the outcome is not favourable, Labour would have no choice but to embark on strike.

Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPNC) Secretary Alade Lawal said organised labour would not accept anything less than its demands.

Labour is demanding 29 per cent adjustment for workers on levels 07-14 and 24 per cent for workers on levels 15-17.

Workers on levels 1-6 are already being paid the new wage.

Monday’s meeting follows the collapse of the first phase of negotiations due to percentage differences on the new N30,000 minimum wage implementation.

The Federal Government presented a proposal of 11 per cent increase for officers on grade levels 07-14 and 6.5 per cent adjustment for workers of grade levels 15-17.

It was gathered that the government offered labour N158 billion in the 2020 budget.

Lawal advised the government to meet Labour’s demand to avoid industrial action.

He said: “We have a demand before the government. Let them meet those demands. Let them meet up with them and then, we wrap this thing up and we go and do some other things.”

On his assessment of Monday’s meeting, Lawal said: “The Labour Minister did his best, but his best is yet to meet our expectation.

“Our eyes are on the ball. The substance is our demand. What he is telling us is that it will be difficult for the government to meet our demands.

“They are still insisting that they won’t go beyond what is in the budget, meaning that they are not prepared to shift ground.

“But, the signals are not good going by what transpired at Monday’s meeting. We held a meeting with the Labour Minister last week and we told the world that there was a glimmer of hope.

“Instead of moving forward now, the vehicle has been turned into a reverse gear.

“If they have now applied a reverse gear, it means they want this thing to start all over again which we are trying to avoid. That is why I am trying to tell you that the signals are not good.”

A source at the meeting said Labour would reject the N158 billion offer.

“We are on with our mobilisation and we are going ahead. Tomorrow’s (today’s) meeting will determine whether we are going forward or backwards,” the source said.

Ngige, during the meeting, appealed to Labour to show some understanding.

He said: “If we don’t soften the ground, bullets will fly and at the end of the day, we will come back to the negotiating table. That is why we are doing this as a pro-active measure.

“Part of my work is to ensure that there is a quiet industrial milieu. We are going to do the mix grill meeting. That mix grill meeting tomorrow (today) can be one-hour meeting.

“It can be two hours, or it can be 12 hours, depending on what we can achieve. I appeal to everybody to show some understanding.

“We are going to discuss dispassionately. Nothing will be hidden from anybody. The books of government, I talked about it before, when I mean books they are budgets – 2019/2020 – we will make it bare.

“I have advised Labour to come prepared to present their case meaningfully and successfully. I will stay in the middle as an arbiter because that is what I am going to do in this instance.”

Ngige clarified that the new minimum wage was not a general wage review, but “a consequential review”.

“Negotiations are ongoing. You must bargain,” he said, adding that all negotiations would be guided by the government’s “ability to pay” what Labour demands.

Ondo State NLC council chairman Oluwole Adeleye said everything hinges on the outcome of today’s meeting.

He said the chapter received a mail on October 11 from the NLC National Headquarters directing workers to get prepared for industrial action that would be total.

Workers in Kano State said they would join the strike if the issues are not resolved.

Chairman of the NLC state chapter Comrade Kabiru Minjibir said Kano workers were awaiting further directives from the national headquarters.

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