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MINIMUM WAGE: FG, LABOUR MEETING DEADLOCKED

By NBF News
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The sub-committee headed by Vice President Namadi Sambo, with five governors as members, yesterday failed to reach an agreement with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC)not to go ahead with the three-day nation-wide warning strike commencing from Wednesday, November 10. The planned strike is to press home workers' demand for the implementation of a new national minimum wage of N18,000.

The Federal Government has however said it is not trying to buy time butit has realised the need to fasttrack the process to resolve the contending issue, first, during the Council of State Meeting slated for November 25. Thereafter, the demand would be forwarded to the National Assembly for legislation.

The Vice President led the government's team while Promise Adewusi, NLC Acting President and Peter Esele, President, TUC led the labour delegation. The meeting however, did not kick off at the scheduled time of 2 p.m. but 2.30 p.m. when the Vice President entered the meeting room but without labour representatives who came in at 3p.m.

Addressing State House Correspondents after the meeting which did not last more than 90 minutes, a member of the sub-committee and Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, said efforts were being made to fast track the negotiation process assuring that all necessary steps were taken to resolve the government labour dispute.

He explained that the delay in the execution of the action of the report on labour wages prompted labour's decision to issue the three-day warning strike.

Oshiomhole said government has realized that there was an urgent need to act fast and for the Council of State to take the decisions and forward the report to the National Assembly for urgent implementation.

'Labour gave ultimatum to the federal government to take action on the minimum wage report, they believe and rightly too that they did not see any action being taken on the report which was submitted in July and that is a long time now. But at the meeting, effort had been made to make the point that yes, sometime has been lost and government now realised that we have to act fast and the meeting of the National Council of State has been slated for November 25th and it would finalise the decision and the report will be forwarded to the National Assembly. The good thing is that, members of the National Assembly are very well represented in the Council of State. I think the whole idea is to convince labour that there is no plan to buy time. Yes, we have lost some time but we have to try and fasttrack the process.

'A report was submitted in July, labour expected that thereafter, it would be forwarded to the National Economic Council and the National Council of State, thereafter, the National Assembly. These are procedures that everybody is familiar with, but along the line, labour felt that government was not acting on the report as fast as it was expecte and therefore decided to issue ultimatum to encourage the Federal Government and all those concerned to act on the report.

Whereas the national council of state normally does not meet every month because of the fact that government need to make up for the lost time, the meeting of the council of state has now been summoned for 25th of November and everything concerning the minimum wage will be finalised at that meeting and it will be submitted to the national assembly to give legal backing to the report.

'As I understand, the ultimatum by NLC, TUC, it's not that with effect from Wednesday, the minimum wage should take effect. They just want to see that the report is forwarded to the National Assembly. It is now left for the NLC and TUC to decide whether having listened to government, they believe or they don't believe, that is a matter for them to decide.

If they found evidence that something was being done as it is being done now, they would probably not have issued the ultimatum. So, in terms of getting government to act, I think the ultimatum has achieved its objective'.

Also speaking to newsmen, the NLC Acting President said, 'gentlemen I must thank you for your interests in this matter.

We have just had a meeting with our respected Vice President, they have stated government's position, they have appealed but I regret to inform you that nothing has fundamentally changed'