Minimum wage: FG alleges blackmail over labour union ultimatum

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…As Ekiti LG workers declare indefinite strike, over unpaid salaries***

The Federal Government has described Labour 14-day ultimatum as “a subtle blackmail” to stampede the Tripartite Committee on the new National Minimum Wage.

Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment stated this at a news conference on Thursday in Abuja, noting that the ultimatum was uncalled for.

Organised labour has accused the Federal Government of stalling the negotiation by failing to mention a figure as a new minimum wage for the Nigerian workers.

It warned that workers would embark on an industrial action if their demands were not met within a fortnight.

The organised labour also issued the Federal Government a 14-day ultimatum, insisting that the Tripartite Committee on the new National Minimum Wage concluded its work within the stipulated time frame.

According to Ngige, it is not true that the Federal Government is trying to stall negotiations.

“The following facts speak in that direction, if the Federal Government is not interested why did Mr President inaugurate the Presidential Committee on the new National Minimum Wage.

“If it is not interested, Mr President would have asked me to do an inter-ministerial meeting, but Mr President took interest and set up a presidential committee.

“This Presidential Committee, he monitors it and I also brief him from time to time, both written and verbally.

“As a matter of fact, before the meeting adjourned last week, I have told the committee that the Economic Management Team could not hold.

“This is due to the fact that most people in the team travelled with Mr President to China.

“Also if the Federal Government is not interested, why will l brief the entire tripartite committee and tell them that work is in progress, “he said.

The minister also noted that he had requested for two weeks from the committee to enable the Federal Government delegation consult with state government delegation.

“That means that the meeting can be called at any time, in one day or within three days which is still stipulated within the month of September.

“So it is very surprising to know that labour gave ultimatum of 14 days to the Federal Government, this is uncalled for and a subtle blackmail to the Federal Government.

He also said that the chairperson of Tripartite Committee on the new National Minimum Wage would lead a delegation on Friday to brief Mr President on the negotiations so far.

Ngige further assured Nigerians workers that there was no cause for alarm, adding that Federal Government was working assiduously to ensure the implementation of the minimum wage, soonest.

“We were unable to fix a figure because of many factors that have occurred.

“For example, the components in review, organised labour finds easy to give a figure.

“They have brought a figure which is N56, 000 and later change it to N65,000 and it is within their ambit to do so.

“The organised private sector also brought a figure, initially they brought N42, 000, and by last week before the Committee on National Minimum Wage adjourned they brought their own figure down to N25, 000.

“The organised private sector also took into account the economic situation in the country, the ability to pay and the ability to enhance and create new jobs in the country.

“So it is important for us to look at all those things because one of the cardinal principles of the International Labour Organisation is the minimum wage fixing, which is the ability to pay.”

He also said that the Federal Government had requested that the state governors give a tentative figure, noting that they had not yet been able to make available.

The minister further said that the Federal Government delegation had written, as a committee, to the state governments and had also followed it up with visits and is still awaiting their response.

Ngige said that the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) had further requested for time to do more work on what their delegation in the committee had proposed and requested for an extension of time.

In the meantime, the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, in Ekiti State, yesterday, declared an indefinite strike against the state government, beginning from Friday (today), for alleged negligence of workers welfare and unpaid salary arrears.

Similarly, indigenes of Ado Ekiti, under the auspices of Ado Ewi Indigenes Rights Protection Forum and Ado Ekiti Youth Coalition, yesterday, protested against Governor Ayodele Fayose for selling the Oba’s Market in the town to traders, rather than allowing the local government to rent it out to users.

This was as the State House of Assembly approved the N10 billion supplementary budget requested by Governor Fayose. The workers are aggrieved that despite their goodwill to the administration, the state government had failed to honour an agreement signed recently at the Joint Account Allocation Committee of September 4. The umbrella body of local government workers in Ekiti also warned the state government against fresh recruitment exercise when it had yet to clear various arrears owed serving workers. Rising from an emergency meeting held, on Wednesday in Ado Ekiti, NULGE directed all workers to embark on strike from Friday until all contentious issues including social security; payment to Federal Inland Revenue Service were addressed. In a communiqué signed by the state’s President, Olubunmi Ajimoko, and the Secretary, Suleiman Alero, NULGE said: “Against the background of this government neglecting our earlier advice on the timeliness of fresh recruitment into the services of both the local government and the teaching sector, we again wish to stress that additional burden should not be put on JAAC until our various arrears are cleared. The case of those hurriedly employed in 2003 should serve as a lesson to all who remember history.

“In view of the insensitivity of this present administration, even at the point of winding up, when we feel that corrections of past errors should be made, it has become painfully obvious that no concrete agreement can be respected by this administration. “The union is, therefore, calling all its members in the 16 local governments, the related commission, Boards and Departments to proceed on an indefinite strike action from Friday.”

The Citizen with additional report from Vanguard