MINIMUM WAGE: WHY LABOUR PLANS TO DERAIL NEGOTIATION

After substantial progress by the technical committee set up by the Federal Government to negotiate the consequential adjustment arising from the new minimum wage, Labour leaders in the country may have hatched a plan to scuttle further negotiations.

Labour leaders operating under the aegis of the Trade Union Side (TUS) of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC), said on Monday that the mobilization of workers for another industrial action over the National Minimum Wage of N30,000 had commence.

This is coming barely three days after labour leaders walked out of a meeting where final decisions were to be taken on the consequential adjustment arising from the new minimum wage.

The meeting, chaired by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, ran into a stalemate after labour leaders rejected federal government’s proposal and demanded percentage increases across board, a demand considered outrageous in view of the funds available for salaries in the 2019 budget.

Government had accepted the 66.66 percent increase in the minimum wage for workers on Grade Level  01-07 and in addition proposed a consequential salary adjustment of N10,000 per month across board for all the harmonized salary structure to ensure equity.

The Government’s proposal was based on the recommendations of the presidential committee headed by renowned economist, Bismarck Rewane, set up to advise government on how to achieve sustainable funding for the new minimum wage in view of the distress in the economy.

But the proposal was rejected by labour and instead it demanded percentage increases of 30 % for those on GL 07-014 and 25% for those on GL 15-17 which would have resulted into additional cost  of N500,813, 183,739.00 per annum which is far above what the budget could carry.

Government had shown good faith and transparency in the negotiation by laying all the cards open, including information on the provisions of the budget.

The TUS acknowledged this when it said “Government side argued that such increase across board would raise the total wage bill too high, the Trade Union Side reviewed its demand downward and eventually settled for 30% for officers on Grade Levels 07-14 and 25% for those on Grade Levels 15-17.  The Government side on its part was insisting on 9.5% salary raise for employees on Grade Levels 07-14 and 5% for those on Grade Levels 15-17.”

It is a sign of good faith that Government reviewed it initial proposal of 5 % to 9.5 % for those on GL 07-17.

The allegation that labour “received a rude shock” at the last meeting of the technical committee when the Government representatives said negotiations on salary adjustments would have to be based on what was provided for it in the 2019 budget, is therefore fallacious and self-serving.

While the Government considered the plight of those at the lower rung of the salary structure and adjusted their salaries by 66.66 %, which is an increase of N12,000 per month, labour representatives are asking for a percentage increase that would add N16, 654.58 per month for those on GL 08  and N87,158.33 per month for GL 17.

TUS’s allegation that Government was “only prepared to pay peanuts to workers” is a misrepresentation of what had transpired.

Also, claims that “fifth columnists” were bent on putting the Buhari administration on a collision course with workers are untrue since labour leaders, rather than the imaginary fifth columnists are responsible for walking out of the negotiation.

Labour should go back to the negotiating table in the interest of Nigerian workers.

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