Govt using inauguration to delay minimum wage negotiation — Labour

Organised labour on Thursday frowned on the failure of government to commence negotiation with its leaders and the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council over the consequential adjustment in salaries arising from the new national minimum wage more than two weeks after a committee was inaugurated.

The Federal Government on May 14, 2019 inaugurated the committee to negotiate the consequential adjustment with the former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita appointed as chairman.

Other members of the committee are ministers of ministries relevant to the negotiation.

While inaugurating the committee, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha said the committee would work for four weeks with the inaugural meeting scheduled to hold on May 20, 2019.

However, the meeting did not hold. More than two weeks after the inauguration, all the ministers that were appointed as committee members had left office.

In an interview with our correspondent, Secretary of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, Alade Lawal, said it was not necessary to wait for new ministers to be appointed before negotiation would commence.

According to him, permanent secretaries in the ministries were competent to hold forth for government.

He expressed the fears that if the burden of financial implication accumulated became too high, government could begin to look for a way of reducing the amount using complex financial technicalities.

He said, “The excuse was that everybody was busy with the inauguration ceremony of President Muhammadu Buhari and others and that there are no more ministers to negotiate with us. But it does not necessarily mean that it is the ministers that should come for the meeting.

The ministries have competent permanent secretaries that can represent them.

“We have given them the task of calling a meeting next week. If the President fails to appoint ministers immediately or anytime soon, does it mean the negotiation is stalled?

That is why competent officers should be empowered to fill the positions of the ministers for now.

“We held over 20 tripartite committee meetings on the minimum wage, the Minister of Finance and that of budget and planning ministry were mostly represented.

“By the time we eventually sit and reach an agreement, the arrears could frighten the government. On the strength of that, the government could start a review of our agreement in order to reduce it to a figure it can manage. That is the implication of this delay and it is not right. We are urging the government to call a meeting immediately.

“We are experiencing unnecessary delay in the negotiation and workers are becoming apprehensive. They are beginning to think that they are being taken for a ride. The position of trade union is that the issue of handover or inauguration must not stop the negotiation.”

Lawal said it was impossible to complete negotiation in the remaining two weeks because sub-committees had to be formed apart from the main committee.

“The SGF gave us four weeks to work and we have spent about two weeks without doing anything.

Our fear now is that the government is deliberately dragging the issue.

As it is now, the enlarged committee will not be able to do a detailed work; we still have to form sub-committee to work on the technical details, the financial implication and computation,” he noted.

PUNCH.

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