Posted by News Express | 6 January 2019 | 1,904 times
In what appeared to be a crack among the leadership of organised labour, the United Labour Congress (ULC) on Friday boycotted the meeting called by the federal government to pressure labour into shelving its planned strike over the new minimum wage.
However, the other two labour centres, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) attended the meeting chaired by the minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige.
Sources within the ULC told LEADERSHIP Weekend that its leadership refused to attend the meeting because the labour centres had, in their December 20, 2018 meeting held in Lagos, agreed not to attend any meeting with the federal government until an Executive Bill on the minimum wage is sent to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We told them that we would not be attending the meeting,” ULC deputy general secretary, Chris Onyeka, told noted, adding that the ULC would instead commence mobilisation for strike irrespective of the meeting.
Recall that Friday’s meeting between the federal government and the NLC and TUC ended without conclusion on the issues raised by labour. The meeting, which started at about 12:30pm, was adjourned till 4:30pm to enable the minister attend a meeting at the State House.
Speaking after the meeting, labour minister, Chris Ngige, disclosed that the high-level technical committee announced by President Buhari would work on the fiscal issues to ensure sustainable payment of the N30,000 new national minimum wage.
Also present at the meeting were the minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed; minister of budget and national planning, Udoma Udo Udoma; NLC president, Ayuba Wabba; his TUC counterpart, Boiboi Kaigama, and other members of the National Executive Council of the two labour centres.
According to Ngige, the negotiating teams of the federal government and organised labour are to meet on Monday by 5pm to fine-tune fiscal issues on the new national minimum wage. He said the committee, when constituted, would also advise state governments, which had been complaining and groaning under heavy wage bills, on certain things they should do to source funds to meet the financial obligations arising from the new minimum wage.
“The /meeting was not deadlocked. We are making progress or we have made substantial progress in terms of the transmission of the national minimum wage bill,” the minister explained.
When reminded that the National Assembly was on recess and expected to resume on Wednesday, January 16, 2019, Ngige said: “Very good, that’s the issue we are looking at. They (National Assembly) are on recess. As you can see, it is a new bill on the National Minimum Wage Act 2019.”
When asked about the hard stance of the state governors on the agreement reached during the tripartite committee meeting, Ngige said: “The issue of the national minimum wage is in the exclusive list,” as stipulated by the 1999 Constitution (as amended). He maintained that if Mr. President was not committed to the implementation of the new minimum wage, he would not have provided the resources for the tripartite committee which worked for one year.
“He (Buhari) is ready for it and received the report too. We are now working on the report. The report is in a raw form. It is the milling that we are doing now with labour.
“The high-level technical committee is not a committee to review the minimum wage report. It is a committee that is economic. It is about budget and planning and to advise federal government and even the state governments on sustainable implementation and how we can get the funds – not a one-off thing; not that we can pay in 2019 and cannot pay again after. It will advise state governments that have been complaining and groaning under heavy wage bill on certain things they should do.”
Ngige also affirmed that the N160 billion provided in the 2019 budget proposal was not only for the new national minimum wage but also for the consequential advance movement that may occur.
In his speech, NLC president Ayuba Wabba acknowledged that the meeting was inconclusive and that the parties unanimously agreed to adjourn till Monday by 5pm to resume negotiation.
He said: “Negotiation became necessary to get money into the pocket of Nigeria workers. The major issue is that we have been able to have a meaningful social dialogue though the process has not been concluded.”
Wabba maintained that the draft bill was part of the report transmitted to the president, adding that what was tagged as fiscal issues would be tidied up on Monday.
He, however, noted that the leaders of the trade unions during the meeting emphasised that they could not guarantee industrial harmony if the demands were not met by the expiration of the deadline.
•Excerpted from a Leadership report
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