Abuja – The Federal Government has said it would need an additional N580 billion to fully implement the new national minimum wage.
Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, said this on Thursday while playing host to executive members of the yet to be registered United Labour Congress (ULC) in his office in Abuja.
While urging workers to show more understanding to the plight of government, Ngige said the current economic realities may make the new wage bill not feasible.
He regretted the inability of the joint negotiating team to agree on the consequential adjustments, insisting that the new wage may become bloated by workers on grade levels 7-14 and 15-17.
Already the organised labour unions have started mobilising their members to embark on strike, tentatively on October 16, 2019.
Their proposed strike may have been predicated on the consequential adjustments which either parties failed to reach a compromise so as to effect the implementation.
The minister said if government was to meet the yearnings of Nigerian workers regarding the N30,000 minimum wage, it might have to lay off some workers to bridge the gap.
He said already the Federal Government has paid out over N500 billion as earned allowances to public sector workers, especially for those working in the university system.
“There is no problem with disagreement in the labour system, we can sometimes disagree to later agree. On the national minimum wage, it will translate to an additional N580 billion if government agrees to the consequential adjustment labour is proposing.
“Government cannot afford that kind of money now, besides the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is more interested in the lowest cadre of workers which are those on grade level 1 step 1 and level 6 step 1, these are the ones who the N30,000 will have greater impact on.
“Where there is a challenge is those on grade levels 7-14 and 15-17. Government is calling for more understanding from these set of workers because of the huge implications,” Ngige stated.
The minister also revealed that the Federal Executive Council meeting usually presided over by the president, took a resolution recently, that henceforth all companies bidding for contract from the Federal Government must have to specify the number of jobs they would create.
He said the policy have become necessary to check excessive rate of unemployment in the country.
Ngige also noted that in line with its Executive Order 5, government has decided to place a ceiling on its expatriate quota, such that foreign firms must have to indicate the number of personnel, including material resources they will bring into the country whenever they have jobs to execute.
Meanwhile, leader of the delegation and President of ULC, Joe Ajaero, appealed to the ministry to look into review of the existing labour laws, as most of them were becoming obsolete.
According to Ajaero, workers were at liberty to unionise but that some of the existing laws were constituting hindrances to such rights.
While seeking to be registered as a trade union in Nigeria, he bemoaned a situation where only members of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) are incorporated in the boards of some parastatals under the Federal Government.
Osinbajo Moves To Avert Strike, Meets TUC Officials
Meanwhile, in an apparent move to avert strike by members of the organised labour, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has appealed to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) that the Buhari administration would honestly and transparently resolve requests for salary increase for other levels of workers not affected in the implementation of the new national minimum wage.
Osinbajo stated this on Thursday when he met with the new leadership of the TUC at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The team was led by the new president of the union, Quadri Olaleye.
Labour, Employment & Productivity Minister, Chris Ngige, was also at the meeting.
The vice president commended the labour leaders for engaging with the Federal Government on the minimum wage issue.
According to him, “Your coming today indicates your willingness to work with government. You should consider the president as someone committed to the welfare of workers.
“One of the first things he did when we came in was to give states a series of bailouts to help repay backlog of salaries in several states.”
The vice president noted that the Buhari administration refused to ignore the situation, and instead provided different facilities, including Paris Club refunds and budget support loans, to provide immediate succour to states.
On the contentious issue of salary increase being demanded, Osinbajo advised labour to “find ways to work with a government that is honest and wants to work to resolve the issue transparently”.
He added: “Let us give ourselves room to negotiate properly. The president wants an honest, open process; we will be transparent and honest about it. Labour leaders should give us the benefit of the doubt.”
Osinbajo also assured the leaders that ministers had a mandate to ensure job creation opportunities while government also worked on creating an enabling environment for the private sector to create jobs.
In his own contribution at the meeting, Ngige disclosed that the new national minimum wage was already being paid by the Federal Government, noting that arrears would also be settled.
He said the salary increase that labour was now asking for was a “consequential adjustment,” arising from the implementation of the new minimum wage.
While the new minimum wage covered salary grade levels 6 and below, the adjustment being demanded now is for salary increase of the other grade levels from 7 above.
Earlier in his remarks, the TUC president called on the Federal Government to effect the salary increase, and urged the government to continue to deal with security matters in the country.
The TUC delegation, speaking through the union president, Olaleye, also advised the vice president “to remain focused on your constitutional duties”.
It also said: “You have achieved more especially with the quarterly business forums you hold and you should not relent. Posterity will judge you fairly.”