Don’t Misinform Workers On Minimum Wage – Ngige Tells Labour
Dr Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, has told labour leaders not to misinform workers in Nigeria over government’s position on the consequential increase in workers’ salaries as a result of the new minimum wage of N30,000.
A PUNCH report says; already, representatives of organised labour and that of the Federal Government are meeting at the Ministry of Labour and Employment over the consequential increase.
Both parties have been negotiating for more than five months after the National Minimum Wage Act was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 18, 2019, with no agreement reached over differences in the percentage increase in workers’ salaries.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, told labour representatives in his opening speech before the technical session that government had no plan to intimidate labour in the course of negotiation, adding that he prayed that the FG reached an agreement on the issue to avert the planned workers strike.
He reminded the labour leaders that the negotiation was not about a holistic wage review of workers’ salaries, stressing that the success of labour leaders who represented workers in the negotiation would be how much money they were able to negotiate for the workers instead of declaration of strike.
Earlier before the meeting commenced, Ngige received the leaders of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, led by its president, Ibrahim Khaleel.
While responding to the issue of implementation of minimum wage raised by NULGE, Ngige said the FG’s personnel cost had increased astronomically and that accommodating more wage bill like what labour was demanding could run the economy aground.
“I don’t want labour to misinform workers. They should not be misinformed. Workers should know that this is consequential adjustment and not a holistic wage review. We must give government the benefit of the doubt. I am for labour and I will not sit and watch them being cheated. I will also not sit and watch labour intimidate government.
If you dangle strike, it is intimidation and International Labour Organisation Convention does not permit it. People should negotiate freely. If government threatens you in the course of negotiation, it is intimidation.
“I am your friend and friend of government. In fact, government feels I am not doing enough. That is why I am talking to you so that you can talk to your people. We cannot allow government to shut down the economy because it wants to pay salaries and wages.
“The 2020 budget of N10.3tr has N3.8tr as personnel cost without overhead. If you add running cost and other incidental costs, the total recurrent budget as presented to the National Assembly has taken to 76 per cent. Where do we get the money to build roads, airport, rails, health centres, schools etc.?
“It is a matter of balancing a budget that is 76 per cent recurrent and 24 per cent capital, for me, it is nothing to cheer about. In the 76 per cent, government has captured N200bn for consequential adjustment for the minimum wage and so on. These are all part of personnel.
“N160bn is for consequential adjustment of the minimum wage and not total package of workers’ salaries. Everybody has to make sacrifice.
We must plug leakages. The ghost workers should go and we should know who the real workers are,” he said.
He also insisted that there were about 1.3 million federal civil servants in Nigeria, saying that it could rise to 1.5 million.
“As of today, we have 1.3 million persons in the federal civil service and maybe it will be more by the time we finish bringing everybody to IPPS.
“The number of workers, 1.4 million or 1.5 million out of 200 million people take 33 per cent of the budget, which has deficit. It is important we know this. It is up to us to decide (whether) to use all the money to pay salaries and the economy will grind to a halt and be like Venezuela,” he said.