…As FG says no time limit for negotiation
From Bimbola Oyesola, Geneva
Nigerian worker’s hope of earning a new minimum wage soon may be a mere wish, as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said in Geneva, Switzerland that there was no time limit to when the process that would lead to the new wage may be finalised.
Ngige, who was addressing journalists at the on-going 106th session of the International Labour Congress (ILC), holding at the United Nations Building in Geneva, said although the minimum wage committee will be put in place in a fortnight, he could not put a time limit to when negotiation will be concluded.
This is, however, contrary to the Organised Labour’s demand for the Federal Government to put a time line on the review of the minimum wage which they considered to have been long overdue.
But the minister said he cannot put a time limit because the issue of minimum wage involves a rigorous process and negotiation. He said it also involves the employers, workers and the government who had all agreed there is the need to review minimum wage in Nigeria. Justifying his position, he pointed out that while the workers, represented by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) , have proposed N56,000, the employers, represented by Nigeria Employers Consultative Council (NECA), have rejected the proposal and declared that they cannot pay N56,000 for now.
According to the minister, the actual discussion for the negotiations would only start when the committee is put in place in the next fortnight; and that all the comments on the issue of minimum wage were informal.
He said: “We cannot put a time limit to the negotiation. But we are sure that all of us have seen the need that there must be a review. Some have taken their position. The workers demanded for N56,000, the employers said for now they cannot pay N56,000; but everything being said now are outside the orbit of the negotiation table. When the committee comes to force, actual discussion will start and the committee will come in place in the next fortnight.” The minister, however, commended the NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba and the Labour delegation to the ILC for being fair to the Nigeria government in their report, and for not reporting the government of subjugation during their presentation at the conference.
“Well, the NLC president was also generous in his report that we are already doing something in terms of tripartisim., collective bargaining and all that is needed on the issue of minimum wage”, he stated.
Meanwhile, the NLC president, Wabba, has insisted that the Federal Government must conclude all the negotiation in relation to the new national wage within six months of its commencement. Ayuba said Nigerian workers are already at their tether ends and could no longer continue to suffer. He added that the present minimum wage of N18,000 is no longer sufficient, considering the present economic situation in the country.
“The government just have to do the needful; already, we have got assurance from the National Assembly that the review would be given accelerated hearing when it comes to their table. So, we want the Federal Government to constitute and inaugurate the committee on time and let the process begin,” he said.