New minimum wage is not salary review – Ngige

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, says organised labour is wrong in seeing the consequential adjustment in salary as total salary review.

He said this is the reason the Federal Government is yet to commence total implementation of the new N30,000 minimum wage to all categories of workers because

Mr Ngige spoke on Thursday when the Director-General of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Timothy Olawale, led a delegation from the association to the minister’s office in Abuja.

The discussion is coming a few days before the negotiation begins again between the government and organised labour.

The workers had issued a notice of imminent if the government fails to accept its demands on the consequential adjustment in workers’ salary as a result of the new minimum wage by October 16.

But according to Mr Ngige, the Federal Government had set up a committee that would prepare the ground for a total salary review in 2020.

He said the government’s personnel budget had risen from N1.88trillion to N3.08trillion between 2016 and 2020.

“Today, we are yet to conclude on the matter of the new minimum wage. This is because in the public sector which is mainly governmental; state, local government and Federal Government, there has not been a conclusive end to it.

“As we speak, the issue of consequential adjustment is the main issue. The Minimum Wage Act was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 18, 2019. From that day the National Minimum Wage came to effect. All employers of labour in the public and private sector are expected to obey the law of the land and make sure that the least paid worker in the lowest rung of the ladder receives N30,000 minimum wage.

“However, the private sector is not really so much in trouble. From N18,000, they (private companies) have graduated with some paying more than N30,000 as minimum wage. We have a problem with the public service and we are battling to see how we can weather the storm.”

The minister stressed that the consequential adjustment is not synonymous with total wage review.

“It is an adjustment you do consequentially to move the last man on the rung of the ladder to N30,000. By doing so, you impede on other salary grade levels and, therefore, you must consequentially move them up,” he said.

“Consequential movement up does not mean that you do a percentage of the former minimum wage to the present one which is 67 per cent. We have agreed on that but the issue is that they (labour) have mistakenly bounded the two together. The issue of consequential movement and the issue of total wage review.”

Issues of salary increase

The minister explained that the government had envisaged difficulty in reaching an agreement with labour especially on salary increase and consequential adjustment.

He said the committee put in place to work on the total review of workers’ salaries would submit its report on December 9.

“We are working on that area. That area is important because the FG budget of personnel cost has risen astronomically from N1.88trillion to N3.08trillion between 2016 and 2020. That is more than 100 per cent and it is worrisome.

“Therefore, government has put up the committee to evaluate all the earnings in the public service of the federation to make sure that work and earning are syncronised in such a way that productivity will also come into play.”

According to the minister, the government is determined to erase unfair wage earning among workers in the civil service, with intellectual and academic abilities to be considered in the new structure.

“We have instances of people with decent degree, some with first class; some with second class upper and another man with third class. The man with the third class finds himself in the government establishment where he is earning an amount. The other person (with first-class) finds himself in core civil service and earns one-third of the amount (that the man with third-class earns). It does not make sense.

“That is the essence of that presidential committee and we have been given the mandate to finish our work by December 9, 2019, and turn in our report which will guide the government in the overall structural wage review that will come in place in 2020,” he said.

NECA responds

In his response, the NECA boss said if labour and government failed to reach an agreement again over the new minimum wage, the option open would be to approach the National Industrial Court instead of embarking on strike.

“If dialogue or negotiation fails irretrievably, though it is an unlikely event, but let’s even assume we get to that point, downing tools is not the next course of action. In the worst scenario, because you think the ministry is a party to the disagreement and it can’t subject you to mediation and you don’t have faith in Industrial Arbitration Panel because it is still supervised by the ministry, approach the National Industrial Court then to adjudicate on the matter.”

It was previously reported how the implementation of the new wage has remained a problem, arising from the issue of relativity and consequential adjustments.

On May 14, the Federal Government inaugurated the relativity and consequential adjustment committee, which in turn set up a technical sub-committee to work out a template for the adjustment of salaries of public service employees.

However, the government and labour have failed to reach an agreement for more than six months after the law was signed.

The union had insisted that the government must hold a final meeting on October 15 and threatened industrial action if the government refuses to accept its demand on the new minimum wage implementation by October 16.

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