Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The federal government has invited the leadership of the organised labour for a meeting on January 4, 2019, to brief the workforce on the steps taken by the government to ensure the implementation of the new minimum wage.
The government has also clarified that the Technical Committee proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari for the new minimum wage was not meant to review the report of the Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige disclosed yesterday that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami was sudying the minimum wage bill submitted by the Tripartite Committee.
He was optimistic that the organised labour and the federal government would reach a common ground on the new minimum wage.
“There is no bad situation. We are meeting them (labour) on January 4, and we have sent them a letter inviting them. I will meet them with the Budget and Planning Minister on January 4, so that they will know what government is doing.
Nigige also clarified that the technical committee to be set up is not for the review of the minimum wage but to advise the executive.
“We will brief them properly. The labour technical committee is not for them; it is not for their consumption; it is for the executive. It is an executive committee, a committee to advise the executive, we are not reviewing the minimum wage report.
“Government will look at the bill and the Attorney General office is looking at that bill and we will bring out an executive bill from it for consideration by the National Economic Council, Federal Executive Council, National Council of States before transmission to the National Assembly. That is the sequence and we will do these things this month (January) because the National Assembly is on recess.”
Explaining why the minimum wage bill was not submitted to the National Assembly before they went on recess, the minister said “It is going to be part of the budget. That is why the president talked about it in the budget, the entire quantum of money that would be used is captured in the 2019 budget.
“That was why the President talked about it while presenting the 2019 budget. Besides, the Office of the Accountant General is still working on their own bill, they have not finished.” He further disclosed that people expected to attend the meeting from the government side include the Minister of Budget and National Planning as well as the Minister of Finance.
He said, “The government side is me (Ngige), the Budget and Finance Ministers. Labour has been invited. We sent their invitation about three days ago.”
However, national President of the United Labour Congress (ULC), one of the three labour organisations in the country, Joe Ajaero, said any meeting by government now was just to buy time, stressing that what was needed presently was for President Buhari to forward an executive bill on the N30,000 new minimum wage as recommended by the Tripartite Committee to the National Assembly.
Ajaero said, “If you read Mr. President Budget speech, he was talking about setting up a Technical Committee. The very moment Minimum Wage Committee presents its report, it doesn’t meet again; it is an ad-hoc committee and not a standing committee.
“Then it is now left for Mr. President to transmit Minimum Wage bill to the National Assembly that is what we are waiting for. We gave them up till December 31, 2018 which we are not aware that the National Assembly has received the bill. So if government is fixing meeting I think it is just trying to buy time, try to engage itself.”
The labour unions had on November 6, 2018 shelved their planned nationwide strike over the new minimum wage.
The unions had argued that the current minimum wage of N18,000 was paltry and no longer acceptable.
While the government opted to pay N24,000 as minimum wage, the labour leaders are insisting on N30,000.