© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
SINCE the increase in the new minimum wage signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the federal government have remained at loggerheads.
Although the government through the Chairman, National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC), Richard Egbule, approved the immediate implementation of the N30,000 new minimum wage, the implementation is yet to commence.
While the federal government alleged that the Labour Union is to blame for the delay of the new minimum wage, the NLC says government’s proposal is insignificant.
So, NLC after a two-day meeting held in Kano on August 20th decided to hurry the implementation of the new minimum wage by expanding the boards of negotiation.
The negotiation board hitherto consist of the representatives of the NLC, which are the Joint Negotiating Council (JNC) and representatives of the government.
In a phone conversation with THE ICIR on Thursday, the General Secretary of the NLC, Peter Ozo-Eson, said the expansion would include the integration of the NLC, Trade Union Congress (TUC) as well as major unions in the public sector.
“…Everything would be done to expedite the process and work quickly so that within two weeks this matter on the adjustment of salary can be reached,” he said.
When asked about the position of the NLC on the government’s proposal of the new minimum wage in percentage, Ozo-Eson said the percentage increase as proposed by the government has been rejected by the JNC.
“Whatever the government talks in terms of percentages, those have been rejected by the JNC that were negotiating.
“If the government decides to throw its figures into the public, instead of coming to negotiate on the table that is their own unfortunate choice,” Ozo-Eson said.
He noted that the essence of negotiation is for two parties to bargain and reach an agreement, and called on the government “to come in good faith to the table”.
However, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) the NSIWC chairman, Egbule said the current demand of the labour union would raise the total wage too high, so government disapproved their proposal.
Egbule said, since Labour demanded a consequential adjustment, the government made a budgetary provision for an adjustment of N10, 000 across the board for those already earning above N30, 000 per month.
He noted the adjustment gave rise to the additional cost implication of N158.8 billion per annum, which had already been captured in the 2019 budget.
Ozo-Eson countered this position, saying approval of a budget holds no ground in the absence of no negotiation.
“That is the wrong way to proceed. There is no difficulty. In the past, we have had a situation not even provided in the budget, and after negotiation and agreement, supplementary budget is presented.
“So once an agreement is reached, if what is in the budget is not workable, then a supplementary budget can be envisaged to redress that,” he said.
The NLC general secretary added that if the congress finds out there is no compromise on the new minimum wage, “what we usually do through the democratic process is to invite our members, and our members will take a decision on what will be.”
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