Minimum wage: Labour, FG meeting ends in deadlock

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The tripartite minimum wage negotiation meeting involving Organised Labour, the federal and state governments, and the Organized Private Sector, OPS, yesterday ended in deadlock, following Labour’s dismissal of the government’s N54,000 offer as expected.

Labour leaders also lamented the absence of state governors in the meeting to present their offers, as their representatives said they had no mandate.

However, Vanguard gathered that the meeting will reconvene today by 4 pm.

According to sources, labour leaders insisted that the Federal Government has not made an offer and that it appears the government is not serious.

According to Labour, the N54,000 offer falls below the N77,000 salary its workers are earning.
Before the meeting adjourned for today, it was agreed that governors must attend to make presentations.

Confirming the development, a member of the Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum Wage, Professor Theophilus Ndubuaku, lamented the absence of six governors who represent the six geopolitical zones, stressing that it would not augur well if any agreement was reached without the governors.

Professor Ndubuaku reiterated the May 31 deadline labour had given to the government to conclude negotiations.

He said: “It took them (the government team) some time and they were passing the buck on who would present the offer. It was then the Minister of Labour who now said they had shifted ground to N54,000.

“We still told them that the ground they shifted means nothing. They have not started the negotiation because as of now, the take-home of the lowest-paid federal worker is over N77,000. By their standard, we have not started negotiating minimum wage.

“What we are negotiating now is wage reduction because what they are now telling us is that if we walk out of there if we agree on N54,000, that means we will come out and tell people who are already earning N77,000 that their wage has been reduced.

“We told them that a worker can’t start earning less than what he or she was earning. Is it that there is a reduction in inflation that the cost of living has improved, or is it that the cost of food items has come down?

“Why will they now be negotiating wage reduction? It is unthinkable. We cannot be involved in this kind of process where labour will sit down and negotiate wage reduction. On what will it be based? Will it be based on the fact that the revenue government is realising now since the petroleum subsidy was removed has been reduced?

“Or why will the government be talking about wage reduction when even the inflation is going higher and the cost of living is going higher? So, we told them it is not acceptable, but then we had to adjourn because we could not continue to negotiate without the presence of governors. It will not augur well for the tripartite committee.

Governors not at minimum wage talks

“The Federal Government’s team said it did not know why the governors were not around because six of them were sworn in as members of the committee. We told them this is a serious matter. If they refused to come, even if in the end we agreed on anything, they would say it was not binding on them because they were not there.

“There was a permanent secretary that represented one governor and the person had no input. So, nobody will decide on their (governors) behalf when they are not at the meeting. So we said let us adjourn and invite the governors formally. So, we had to adjourn to tomorrow (today) by 4 pm.”

On the reaction of organised labour when the N54,000 was offered, he said: “When they offered N54,000, we told them they have not started. We did not see that as any shifting of grounds which they promised.

“Shifting grounds must start from the point of negotiation for minimum wage. Anything below N77,000 is a wage reduction, anything below the take-home of the lowest-paid worker is a wage reduction. We cannot start negotiating wage reduction.

“Already the clock is ticking. We gave them a May 31 deadline to conclude negotiations, today (Tuesday) is May 21. We have 10 days to go and it will not augur well for this country if negotiations are not concluded on time.

“This one is no more the case if we did not agree. It is the case of the government not negotiating the minimum wage. I do not think we need any other notice (for a strike). They also said that as far as they are concerned, they are working towards the deadline so that we will conclude before we go to Geneva for the ILO.”

Recall that labour walked out of last week’s meeting after rejecting the government and the Organized Private Sector, OPS, new minimum wage proposals of N48,000 and N54, 000 respectively.

Under the umbrella of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, counterpart, Labour described the government’s proposal of a paltry N48,000 as not only insulting the sensibilities of Nigerian workers but also falling significantly short of meeting their needs and aspirations.

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