The Federal Government and organized labour will today meet to discuss consequential increase in the salaries of workers as a result of the new minimum wage of N30,000.
Today’s meeting is in response to labour’s threat of indefinite strike if government refused to accept its demands on or before the close of work on October 16, 2019.
We gathered that the high profile meeting will have the minister labour, Dr Chris Ngige, who would chair the meeting, the Federal Government team would comprise of the Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Hajia Zainab Ahmed; Minister of State, Finance, Budget and Planning, Clement Agba; Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN); Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi- Esan; Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze; Acting Chairman, National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta; and the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris.
Labour will be represented at the meeting by the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, headed by its acting chairman, Achaver Simon, and secretary of the union, Alade Lawal.
The minister of labour had also extended invitation to leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress.
Labour is demanding 29 per cent salary increase for officers at salary levels 07 to 14 and 24 per cent adjustment for officers at salary grade levels 15 to 17 while the Federal Government had presented to labour a proposal of 11 per cent salary increase for officers at grade levels 07 to14 and 6.5 per cent adjustment for workers at grade levels 15 to 17.
The Monday meeting was preparatory to today’s meeting before labour will take a decision on whether to proceed on indefinite strike or not.
Already, the Nigeria Labour Congress had sent letters to chairmen and secretaries of its affiliate councils in all states, ordering them to begin coordination of members ahead of possible industrial action.
Ngige had said before the meeting began that it was important to soften the ground before the major meeting on Tuesday stressing that part of his job as a minister in the ministry was to ensure industrial peace.
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.
“On Tuesday, we are going to do the mix grill meeting. That mix grill meeting can be one-hour meeting, it can be two hours, or it can be 12 hours, depending on what we are able to achieve today. I appeal to everybody to show some understanding.”
Speaking on behalf of organized labour after the meeting, Asugwuni said labour was prepared to go ahead and embark on strike if the outcome of the Tuesday meeting did not satisfy its demand, stressing that mobilization of members for the strike was still going on.
He said, “The meeting was a consultative one. The meeting took into consideration the essential issues about the minimum wage that is still pending. With the consultation, we were able to share information with the Minister of Labour and Employment in order to ensure the success of today meeting.
“We believe that the Federal Government will do the needful because ours is a straightforward proposal. We have made our proposal to the Federal Government before now and government is to respond. We believe that by tomorrow, we will get the feedback and know the next thing to do.”
The labour leader said the Monday meeting afforded Ngige the opportunity to know ahead all the facts about what labour had demanded as consequential increase for workers. He noted that labour would not accept anything lower than its demand and ready to take any step to drive home its demands.
“The Federal Government will also meet after this meeting ahead of Tuesday’s meeting which will give birth to what will happen on Tuesday. But labour is prepared to take any step in driving our demand home.
Asugwuni wondered why the Federal Government had found it difficult to compensate workers legitimately after offering their services to the nation.
Labour on Monday faulted the position of the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, over government’s ability to implement the new minimum wage of N30,000 to all categories of workers.
Speaking at a forum in Lagos on Sunday, Fayemi had said, “The fact that we moved people, who were below N30,000 to N30,000 and wherever they should be on the scale, should not automatically mean that we must increase the salaries of people at Level 17, who are on N400,000. It is a minimum wage law; it is not a general wage law.”
Reacting, the secretary of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, Alade Lawal said Fayemi was delving into an area where he lacked the fact of the case.
He said, “He (Fayemi) will tell us if he is part of the Federal Government team. Is he not the governor of Ekiti State? Is he the Accountant-General of the Federation or the President? Some of them are arrogant and they talk as if they are the general of the nation.
“They should show respect and talk as if they are addressing human beings. They are playing God.”
When reminded that the governor was also the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Lawal added that some other governors who were part of the NGF had agreed to pay even more than the new minimum wage.
He noted, “He is not aware that the Kaduna State governor has given favorable percentage increase in workers’ salary. He even gave 60 per cent for levels 07 to 14. Is he not a member of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum? Some other states are now talking of paying N50,000 as the minimum wage in their states. Are those state governors not part of the NGF?
“He should not tell us that government cannot pay; he is enjoying with his family. They are in a comfort zone. We are not animals. Go and see what is happening outside; things are terribly bad.’’