Minimum Wage: FG, Organised Labour Meeting Inconclusive

The Federal Government and organised labour on Friday failed to reach an agreement over the proposed N30,000 minimum wage after a seven-hour meeting  at the Ministry of Labour and Employment headquarters in Abuja.

However,  the  meeting was  postponed till Monday for further negotiations.

The meeting was called to discuss the new minimum wage proposed by the tripartite committee that deliberated on the issue and how to avert a  nationwide  protest by organised  labour on  January 8.

At the meeting were the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, Minister for Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma,  and Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed.

Also in attendance  were the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, General Secretary of the union, Peter Ozo-Eson, President of Trade Union Congress, Kaigama Bobboi, and members of the tripartite committee.

Speaking at the end of the meeting,  Wabba told journalists that the meeting made substantial progress but added that the  protest scheduled for Tuesday would be determined by the outcome of Monday’s  meeting.

He said, “We have had a social dialogue bordering  on the new minimum wage. The meeting decided that we  should adjourn and reconvene on Monday for further discussions  before the issues are concluded. “We have not been able to conclude but we will meet on Monday to conclude the process.”

The NLC chief added, “The issues at stake are about making sure that an executive bill is transmitted to the National Assembly and other ancillary issues that the government said it is trying to put together. “Those are the major issues. We also want to see how the money gets into the pockets of our workers. We have been able to have a meaningful dialogue but inconclusive. The rally on Tuesday will be determined by Monday’s  meeting.

“Part of the report submitted (by the tripartite  committee to the presidency) was all inclusive but the  processes that will ensure that a clean bill is transmitted to the National Assembly and what is termed physical issue will be tidied  up on Monday.”

Ngige said President Muhammadu Buhari was committed to paying a new minimum wage but one that was sustainable.

He explained that the process leading to the transmission of an executive bill from the Presidency to the National Assembly was discussed but would be finalised on Monday.

He said, “We have made substantial progress in terms of the transmission of the bill to the National Assembly. We adjourned to look at the issue. It is a new bill for National Minimum Wage Act 2019.”

Asked if the state governments were aware of the issues raised and discussed at the meeting, the minister said the issue of the minimum wage  was  on the exclusive list of the constitution.

He also said the technical committee being proposed by the FG would advise the state governments on how to raise funds to sustain the new wage.

Ngige added, “The President inaugurated the minimum wage committee and provided them the equipment and resources to work. We have the report and we are working on it. It is in a raw form and it will be milled before transmission to the National Assembly; that is what we are doing now and how to make it fast.

“The high level technical committee will not discuss the minimum wage. It is about budget and planning for the federal and state governments on sustainability and how they can get the money. We don’t have to pay in 2019 and not pay in 2020. The committee will advise the state governments groaning under wage bill on what to do. On Monday we will continue and arrive at a transmission date.”

The minister also said  the N160bn in the 2019 budget was not only for the minimum wage but also for “consequential financial” that would occur.

At the beginning  of the meeting, Wabba told  government’s  representatives that the union expected the FG to have completed the process of implementing  the tripartite report, which was submitted more than two months ago.

He said, “Since the issue of minimum wage, which expired in 2016, we have always followed  due process. The stage we are is not about implementation but how to get to the next stage. But when there is no information, there will be speculation.

“The report was submitted more than two months ago and we were patient to allow the process to take its course.”

(Saturday Punch)

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