The tripartite meeting on fresh negotiations for a new minimum wage of N56,000 monthly opened on Monday at the National Assembly complex in Abuja.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki is leading the negotiation.
The meeting comprised the representatives of the Nigeria Labour Congress led by its President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige and the host, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who led the National Assembly team.
Although it was held behind closed doors, Journalists were later informed that the government presently lacked the financial capacity to pay the proposed N56,000 minimum wage as demanded by the labour union.
At the end of the meeting, the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige confirmed that the government was finding it difficult to pay the arrears owed workers based on the current minimum wage of N18, 000, at least for now.
“We are here to discuss issues relating to things that are meant for industrial disharmony in the public sector. As you are aware the labour federations have made it known that the governors have not been treating them well.
“One of the cardinal issues of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is to give our workers decent jobs and we decided to discuss with them,’’ Dr. Ngige stated.
Issue of salaries
He explained;“It’s a tripartite negotiation. What we are doing here is tripartite because we have involved the National Assembly and when you do such negotiations it is plus. We looked at the issues of salaries arrears, promotion arrears, debt benefits, location expenses and transfer allowances, which overtime have accumulated and had ran into billions. And these are what are owed to federal public servants and we started the meeting today to find a solution.
“So we made progress on Monday and we have adjourned to reconvene on Tuesday at 4pm, local time; all sides are to come back with possible solution to the identified issues that government doesn’t have enough fund for now to tackle the issues. So we are reconvening again to sort it out by 4pm.”
Also addressing Journalists after the meeting, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, President, Ayuba Wabba listed fresh challenges to the new minimum wage, saying that they must be properly tackled in order to bring to fruition the desired N56,000 minimum wage.
“We have discussed issues bothering on arrears of allowances which have accumulated for some time and running into billions and yet unpaid.
Also, is the issue of pension particularly the issue of bonds and the fact that some of the contributions by workers have not been remitted for some time. Those are some of the issues which we thought the National Assembly has led the process to bring all stakeholders on board and look at how these issues can be resolved in a win-win situation without allowing the industrial relation process to break up,” Wabba said.
According to him, the challenges facing the demand for new minimum wage included the issue of amendment to laws, and budgetary provisions.
“Those are the totality of issues we are actually working on and it is a holistic process which you know that the processes require laws; they also require some budgetary provisions,” he stated.