Minimum Wage: FG moves to avert strike, may up offer to workers by 5%

•Ngige again summons labour to informal meeting

In a swift move to avert the planned nationwide strike by the Organised Labour over the implementation of the N30,000 new national minimum wage, the Federal Government, may increase its offer to labour with additional 5%, at their expanded Joint National Public Service Negotiation Council (JNPSNC) meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

However, the Minister of Labour and Employment has again summoned the labour leaders to another parley, a preparatory (informal) meeting by 11 a.m on Monday. The meeting is a prelude to the Tuesday enlarged meeting of the Joint National Public Service Negotiation Council, which would have in attendant both the government and Trade Union (Labour) sides of the JNPSNC.

Tribune Online gathered over the weekend that the Federal Government may have resolved to make an additional offer of 5% to Labour, the fact which the minister would likely make known to Labour leaders on Monday to work on or discuss with their members before the Tuesday meeting.

It was gathered that the minister would have wished to make the proposal to labour on Monday, but he is limited in power, since he (minister) cannot make the proposal in such an informal meeting expect during the Tuesday’s JNPSNC meeting.

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The government team had offered and insisted on 11% consequential adjustments for officers on grade level 07 – 14 and 6.5% consequential wage increase to public workers for officers on level 15-17; which Labour had rejected and threatened to go on a nationwide strike.

Labour had on its own came down from the 66.6% it demanded initially for workers from grade level 07-17; to 29% for officers on salary level 07-14 and 24% adjustment for officers on salary grade level 15 – 17.

Based on the insistence of government negotiating team on 11% for officers on grade level 07 – 14 and 6.5% to workers on level 15-17; Labour threatened a nationwide strike scheduled to commence on Wednesday night; and it wrote the Federal Government through the Secretary to the government of the Federation, of its intention and determination to shut down major government institutions and offices.

In the letter to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, Labour warned about the looming industrial strike. It said workers and their leadership have been pushed to the wall and would give no further grace after the close of work on October 16.

It read: “The leadership of NLC, TUC and the JNPSNC (Trade Union Side) feels highly constrained to inform you that labour has been pushed to the wall in respect of the stalled negotiations of the consequential adjustment arising from the new national minimum wage of N30,000 per month and has, therefore, concluded arrangement to embark on industrial action to press home it’s demand if concrete steps are not taken to address the issue at stake.”

The labour leaders were said to be clearly unhappy with the government negotiating team who had refused to present their position to President Buhari, whom they believed would have made a reasonable offer to labour if informed.

As also reflected in the letter, they expected the government side to present their position and that of the official side to President Buhari, “with a view to allow him appreciate the patriotic position of Labour and then intervene positively towards ensuring the achievement of an acceptable and just salary adjustment for workers in the public service.”

The letter read: “When the meeting reconvened, it was discovered that the mandate given to the official side to transmit the positions of the two sides to Mr President, was not carried out. Instead, the official side offered a marginal adjustment of 1% to what it was earlier offering. Officers on grade 07 – 14 were offered 11% increase, while those on grade level 15 – 17 were to get 6.5% upward salary adjustment.”

The belief was that, if the government had offered additional 5%, and not hide the labour position from President Buhari and rather insisted on 11% to level 07- 14 and 6.5% for level 15-17, labour would have grudgingly accepted the offer, and there wouldn’t have been the need for a strike to disrupt the economy.

Several phone calls made to the Special Adviser to the Minister on Media, Mr Nwachukwu Obidiwe between 3 and 4 pm on Sunday were not answered; while text messages to the Minister by 4.23pm and the Deputy Director/Head of of Press and Public Relations, Mr. Charles Akpan by 4.20, to confirmed the position of government were not replied.

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