Govt, Labour for new wage talks on Tuesday

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LABOUR leaders were upbeat on Wednesday that all issues pertaining to the new minimum wage implementation will soon be settled.

After Wednesday’s consultation with the government, a meeting on the new wage implementation has been slated for next Tuesday.

The meeting will hold 24 hours before the October 16 strike notice issued by Labour over the new wage.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, told reporters after holding separate meetings with Labour unions that an equitable implementation of the Consequential Adjustment of the minimum wage would be decided next week.

The minister met with members of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC), led by its Secretary, Alade Lawal.  The Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) delegation, led by NLC Deputy President Amaechi Asogwuni.

At the meeting were: Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed; Minister of State for  Finance, Budget and Planning, Clement Agba; Minister of State, Labour and Employment Festus Keyamo (SAN) and Head of Service of the Federation Mrs. Folashade Yemi- Esan.

Also at the meeting were: Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, Acting Chairman, National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta and Accountant-General of the Federation Ahmed Idris.

The main agenda was the disagreement on consequential adjustment for workers in public service.

Labour is demanding 24 per cent increase for workers on Grade Levels 15-17 and 29 per cent for workers on levels 7-14. But,  government has offered 6.5 per cent for workers on levels 15-17 and 11 per cent for workers on levels 8-14.

Workers on level 1-6 are already enjoying the new minimum wage.

In a statement on Wednesday, Labour and Employment Ministry’s spokesman, Charles Akpan, said  the consultative meeting was called to resolve the impasse over the consequential adjustment of the minimum wage.

The statement reads: “While the meeting with the Labour commenced by 11:30 and ended 2pm, that with the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council is still on-going.

“It was resolved, however,  that each group would hold further meetings to sort out all outstanding disagreements before a high level conclusive meeting scheduled for Tuesday, 15th October 2019.

“This will pave the way for an equitable implementation of the consequential adjustment of the minimum wage.”

NLC General Secretary Emmanuel Ugboaja confirmed the minister’s position.

He said: “In fairness, that was the understanding we reached. It was not a negotiation. It was running of minds on how to move forward and we are okay with the outcome.

“Our position is that this thing should be put behind us very quickly. We have delay in government agreeing on how to take care of its own workers because this issue is about Federal Government and federal employees.

“It is not about the national minimum wage. It is about the Federal Government. So we are okay with the consultation we had with the minister. We came out satisfied.”

The JNPSNC Secretary (Lawal) said there was no breakthrough yet in negotiation until the reconvening of committee meeting by the government.

“Until the committee is reconvened, we can’t be talking of any like a breakthrough in negotiation or not,” he said.

Asked if he was satisfied with the outcome of the meeting with the minister, Lawal said: “It will be premature to talk about being satisfied or not being satisfied. What I can say is that we are talking. At the committee meeting now, if something is offered and we feel we are not okay, then, we can be talking that we are not okay with it. This is just exploratory in nature.

“You know we said that they should wrap this thing up within one week. I think it is in that line that he is talking of conclusive meeting. We are hoping that they will be coming up with something tangible on Tuesday. It is hopeful.

“There is nothing bad in being hopeful. But let us see how it plays out.”

Also on Wednesday, Lawal urged union members in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, to mobilise for industrial action, should the Federal Government fail to meet its October 16 ultimatum.

Addressing members of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Lawal noted that labour had sent out letters in this regard.

He said: “We are mobilising all public service employees throughout the federation. It is not only limited to a union. It is a general thing and everybody is affected.

“This is an action by Labour movement in Nigeria. It is a collective decision; whether you are in the private sector or not. As we speak, some people in the private sector are also waiting for the product of this negotiation.

“Let us hope that the government side will do the needful to save this current industrial action by reconvening the meeting and wrapping it up within the stipulated time as contained in our communique.

“We have given them a time line to reconvene the meeting. If they reconvene the meeting before the 16th of October, we are good to go and if at that meeting we see semblance of seriousness on the part of government, the strike may not continue.

“If that is done, then, we are good to go. But, if that is not done then you will wait for appropriate directive. Once the signal is given just take it. That is our take and position on this matter.”

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