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We can only afford N24,000 as new minimum wage – FG

Valentine Chinyem

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Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige has said the federal government can only afford to pay N24,000 as the new minimum wage for civil servants.

The minister disclosed this while briefing state house correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.

He said: “If you can recollect, we spoke on the 26th of September and I did inform you that I was going to meet with the organised labour to see what we can do to stop the impending strike which was slated for the 27th.

“We met in my office and we agreed to reconvene the National minimum wage tripartite committee for the 4th and 5th of October. That was the issue in contention at the time and the idea was to enable them to get back to their council and call off the strike.

“However, one thing led to the other and the strike took place and they called it off on the 30th.

“We reconvened for the minimum wage committee on the 4th and 5th, and we had adequate representation of all the three partners. Tripartite means the three groups that are negotiating; the first group is the organised labour, the second is the organised private sector and the third group is the government, which is called the authentic authority by the ILO.

“So, we met and if you could remember the contentious issue as per that meeting was for figures to be fixed and we had all proposed our figures, but throughout the negotiations, figures were adjusted; the labour unions adjusted their figures and came down to 30,000 per month, organised private sectors also adjusted their figures from 25,000 which they had earlier proposed to N30,000.

“Federal Government is carrying on its own team, the governors. So, it’s a bi-focal arrangement when it comes to the federal government.

“Governors had their own figure, which was different from the figure of the federal government; both the federal government figure and that of the state governors were also presented and we discussed because the cardinal principle of wage fixing mechanism under the ILO is the ability to pay because the issue of minimum wage under convention 131, the fixing mechanism takes that into account and also says that there must be a consensual agreement,” he said

Further more, he said, “So we have a figure of the federal government and the state government have theirs. The state government figure at the last time was N20,000, the Federal government had a figure of N24,000 and that was where we all stood.

“This negotiation took into account this irreducible offers on the different governments but we could not arrive at a consensus. Even though we adjourned our meeting and said we will put up a report that will reflect this position, we are still continuing to discuss informally to see if we can arrive at a common figure.

“National Salaries and Incomes and Wages Commission have also done for the government and presented to the economic management team, so discussions are still ongoing and that is where we are.

“This information becomes very pertinent because I saw all your papers, the dailies yesterday awash with the news that we have all agreed on N30,000, that is not true, the federal government has not agreed on N30,000.

“The federal government is also carrying the States along with them because a lot of the workers are in the States and its a very sensitive matter, we cannot because the issue of minimum wage is item 34 and an exclusive legislation by the federal government through the National Assembly to go and fix an amount which the states will find difficult to pay resulting may be in retrenchment of workers in the States.

“This government doesn’t want any retrenchment and Mr President has always reiterated it that no worker should retrenched for as long as this administration is on; no worker will be denied his promotion for as long as this administration is on and recruitment to replace people who have retired or people who are dead should continue to be done so that we face the issue of unemployment a d do what we can through such recruitment. So this is the situation,” he said.

He assured that negotiations will continue to reach a common ground.

“It is not cast in stone that because two sectors have agreed on N30,000, it should be binding on all,” he said.