Organised Labour unions has issued a 14-day ultimatum for the Federal Government to return to a negotiable table or face industrial action.
The union said this becomes imperative due to a comment credited to Dr Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour that he has adjourned negotiations indefinitely for further consultations.
According to a joint statement by Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), NUPENG, NUEE, “We view his latest pronouncement with great concern, suspicion and outrage.
“This new antic certainly is not acceptable to Nigerian workers who had expected a new national minimum wage since 2016 but who out of uncommon sacrifice and patriotism hearkened to government’s appeal and the process was delayed.”
National Minimum Wage Committee was inaugurated in November 2017 but commenced work in March 2018 with timelines to deliver on its mandate of arriving at a new national minimum wage in August/ September 2018.
In the course of the work of the Committee, members had the ample time to consult.
“In any case, the Committee was satisfied that it received memoranda and inputs from 21 state governments, specialised Agencies of the Federal Government, the Organised Private Sector, Organised Labour and the general public.
“We even recall that Dr Ngige himself had assured workers during the 40th-anniversary celebration of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in February this year that workers should expect a new national minimum wage in September this year.
“We wonder what has gone amiss between February 28 and now. Or do we assume that the Honourable Minister is acting a script?
“In light of this, his pronouncement is capable of rubbishing the work of the Committee as well as raising serious concerns about the readiness of the Government to accede to the putting together of a new national minimum wage.
“Beyond this, the Minister’s pronouncement has generated considerable tension among workers and provoked sharp reactions from the unions which justifiably argue that the Government is only out to waste the time of workers and is not prepared to pay a new national minimum wage,” the statement said.
Labour emphasised that the national minimum wage was not only legally due about two years ago, the increase in the pump price of petroleum products by the administration with fundamental consequential effects on the citizenry, the increase in electricity tariff, the massive devaluation of the Naira leading to a punitive exchange rate, and hyperinflation, all of which led to a rising cost of living for workers and other Nigerians made a new national minimum wage not only necessary but urgent.
“We are saddened to note that the recommendations of the Technical Committee on Minimum Wage and Palliatives chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation which was mandated to fashion out mitigatory strategy, policies, and programmes to cushion the vagaries of the increase in the pump price of petroleum products have not been implemented to date.
“The present posturing of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige who functioned as Acting Chairman of that Committee brings back painful -memories of precious time wasted, energies dissipated and hopes betrayed. Coupled with this, the Minister’s latest pronouncement goes to cast further doubt on the integrity of the government as well as underscores the inherent danger in doing business with Government.
“In view of the foregoing, we demand that Government does all that is necessary to ensure that the Tripartite Committee is allowed to conclude its work within 14 days from today.
“We would want to use this opportunity to let the Government and the whole world know that in the event that this demand is not met, we will not guarantee continued industrial peace and harmony,” its concluded.