The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige, has said he will meet with President Muhammadu Buhari friday to brief him on the progress made on the negotiations for a new minimum wage.
He said the presidential committee charged with the task of working out details of the new wage package had almost completed its assignment except that agreement on figures for new minimum wage was yet to be reached.
While addressing journalists in his office in Abuja yesterday over the 14-day threat issued by labour unions to commence nationwide industrial action, Ngige said he and the committee would be meeting with the president to acquaint him with what has been done so far.
He said the unions have misrepresented facts over the on-going negotiations and were trying to introduce threats.
According to Ngige, the federal government was still within the timeframe for implementation of the new minimum wage, saying the committee set up by the president had been asked to conclude deliberation on many of issues within the September deadline given to it.
The minister blamed the apparent slow pace of negotiations on the labour union and some state governments, adding that the practice whereby the organised labour proposes figures and withdraws it only to propose another one is not helping matters.
Giving further details on the negotiations, Ngige said members of the organised private sector had earlier proposed N42,000 as what they can pay but later came down to N 25,000 blaming their action on the prevailing harsh economic situation.
He also said state governors had proposed varying amounts which they also stepped down.
While deploring the threat to embark on industrial action, Ngige described the labour union’s move as an act of blackmail and an attempt to intimidate the other partners in the wage negotiations.
“We have now in our service over half a million newly employed workers, and we have paid out over N7 billion on promotion arrears to workers,” the minister stated.
Ngige said President Buhari had shown sufficient interest in the welfare of workers, which was why he set a presidential committee to address the minimum wage issue.
He further stated that the president was quite interested in the progress being made in the minimum wage issues, adding that he had been monitoring every stage of the negotiations, and that he had briefed the governors last Wednesday on the need to fast track the negotiations.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has begun mobilisation of its affiliate unions in preparation for a nationwide workers’ strike to press home their demands for a new minimum wage.
Addressing a press conference yesterday in Abuja, the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said the umbrella labour body would sensitise member unions and the workers to know the plans for the strike and to be ready to support it as long as it lasts.
Apart from the lingering issue of new minimum wage, the NLC president lamented the mounting arrears of salaries being owed workers by some state governments.