The Federal Government was struggling yesterday to stave off an all-workers strike over the controversial minimum wage.
Labour shunned a meeting called by the government and stepped up its plan for a nationwide strike called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
The meeting was scheduled to hold at the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
The indefinite strike is planned to start tomorrow due to the government’s failure to meet the labour union’s demand for a new national minimum wage.
Despite the labour unions absence, some government officials and members of the organised private sector met.
Those at the meeting included Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha; Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige; Minister of Finance Zainab Ahmed and some permanent secretaries.
Labour said it was not interested in the meeting.
Speaking before the meeting went into closed doors, Mustapha hinted that the tripartite committee set up by the Federal Government would be concluding its report today.
According to him, the Federal Government is waiting for the report so that it could begin the process leading to the enactment of the new minimum wage law.
He said the report would still go through the National Economic Council and the Council of State before an Executive Bill would be sent to the National Assembly on the matter.
The only outstanding issues left for the committee, he said, is to harmonise the 15th chapter of the report, harmonise figures and submit report to the President.
Mustapa said the meeting was part of the ongoing negotiation.
He said the meeting was to prepare a complete report to be submitted to the Presidency on the new National Minimum Wage.
Mustapha said the Tripartite Committee has been working assiduously, but though there were outstanding issues that needed to be dealt with, and that was the reason for the rescheduling of the meeting.
“Basically, the only outstanding issue to be dealt with was the harmonisation of the 5th chapter of the report, and thereafter get the figures to be submitted to the government.
“The inaugural speech by Mr President included some very salient points, that caused me to reflect on the work of this committee, and one of it is that there is emphasis that the committee will by consensual agreement arrival at all their decisions and I think that was very important.
” Mr president went further to emphasis that the concern is not only for the welfare of the workers but also every other thing should be taken on board as it affects the county’s economy,
“So, it is a balance of the welfare of the workforce with the effect of the new Minimum Wage on the economy.
“He also underpinned his speech by emphasising the fact we earn to go above basic social protection for Nigerian workers, but also tie to the ability to pay, because I know that a lot of states are even having difficulty meeting the basic minimum wage,” he said.
The SGF also noted that 27 states were faced with the difficulty in the payment of the basic minimum wage that was agreed, saying that he was not making any excuse for them.
He added that the meeting would continue tomorrow (Monday), thereafter members of the tripartite committee would continue with their meeting.
” I want to assure all of you that once the report is concluded and ready, I will personaly ensure that Mr President receives and signs it immediately,” he said.
President, United Labour Congress (ULC) Mr Joe Ajaero told NAN that members of the organised labour got the invitation to the meeting late.
“But hopefully, we will be around for tomorrow’s (Monday) meeting by 11a.m,” he said.
However, Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment gave the assurance that organised labour would be at the meeting on Monday.
According to him, they are not here today and they gave excuse why they are not here.
“We also want to say that we do not support the State governments’ N22,500 proposal and we have also said so.
“We also have our own figure and the Tripartite Committee meeting will look at it and the outcome of the Monday’s meeting will be a consensual, I am sure of that, ” he said.
He said: “I assure you that the government is waiting for the report and will immediately set up processes required for implementation.
“Hopefully, their work will be concluded when they meet tomorrow (today) and append their signatures to the report.
“They will then transmit to me and I will seek an audience with the President to present it to him.
“The report will go through NEC and Council of State before a draft executive bill will be sent to NASS.
“I am awaiting the report of the committee. They will meet tomorrow (today) at 11am.”
According to him, the ability to pay was critical in taking a decision on the minimum wage.
Mustapha noted that a lot of states are still finding it difficult to pay the N18,000 minimum wage.
To this end, he said the Federal Government gave out bailout for the purpose of helping the states to meet up.
Workers are asking for N30,000, but governors are offering N22,500.
NLC Secretary General Peter Oso-Esan: “We (NLC) are not aware of any meeting with the SGF over any matter. A government that gets an injunction against us without putting us on notice until we heard from the press has shown enough bad faith.
“Even if we were aware, we would not be interested to attend any meeting. The meeting we are aware of, which we are going to attend, is the tripartite committee meeting tomorrow in Abuja. That’s the one we plan to attend. That is the official position.”
Justice Sanusi Kado gave the order in a ruling on an ex parte application moved on behalf of the Federal Government by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr Dayo Apata.
Yesterday’s meeting was to have involved the organised Labour, the Organised Private Sector (OPS) and the government team led by the SGF.
The meeting was to be followed up by today’s meeting of the National Tripartite Minimum Wage Committee meeting
The minister appealed to all tripartite members to attend the meetings in the interest of the nation and finding a solution to the minimum wage impasse.