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New Minimum Wage: FG’s Negotiations With Labour To Commence This Month – Ngige

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has said that negotiations that will lead to increased minimum wage will commence this month when the 29-member tripartite committee on a new minimum wage begins operation.

The Minister disclosed this while speaking with reporters at the ongoing 106th session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said that though employers had said they were not in a position to pay the N56,000 minimum wage being demanded by Labour, all parties involved had agreed that the N18,000 minimum wage is no longer realistic.

Ngige also allayed the fears of the Labour movement over the move by the National assembly to repeal the law on minimum wage by taking it away from the exclusive list to the concurrent list.

The minister said: “The issue of minimum wage is a tripartite thing involving the employers, workers and the government and the three of us are talking and have agreed that there is the need to review the issue of minimum wage in Nigeria.

“The government also agreed that there is the need to pay for short fall of salary arrears, promotion arrears and other earned allowances and they can also attest to that. That is why they have not reported us here of subjugation because we have taken bold steps and initiated payment in that same direction.

“Before I left home, N10 billion was already being processed for the promotion allowances arrears. Also, the sum of N14.6 billion had been expended in the area of salaries. If we go back home, we have other machineries and plans to go into the bond market and get some funds to offset all these arrears in one full swipe.”

Asked when the issue of new minimum wage will be resolved, he said: “You cannot fix a time limit for the new minimum wage because it is a negotiation that is ongoing. But we are sure and we have seen the reason there must be an increase.

“Some people have taken their position. The workers have demanded N56,000 and the employers have said we cannot pay N56,000. But everything being said now is outside the orbit of the negotiation table. When the committee comes into force, then actual discussion will start and that committee will come into force in this month.”

On the the Bill before the House of Representatives seeking to remove the Labour matters, including minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list, the minister said: “bill has just been presented and if you understand the process of law making the way I do, you will not have any course to worry.

“The real stage where law making begins is the second reading because that is where the argument starts and you have to convince your colleagues in the chamber in question, either in the House of Representatives or the Senate that the bill must be advanced further and there must be concurrence.

“The bill in question has just passed first reading and I reiterate that the issue of Labour matters, minimum wage and arbitration are things that are on the exclusive federal legislative list, second schedule of the constitution, item number 34.

“Therefore, even if that passes a second reading and third reading and is passed, it will still require a constitutional amendment for it to be allowed to pass into a law. So, it is almost like impossibility. But anything is possible. It is like looking for a needle inside a sack. So, there is no cause for alarm.”

Meanwhile, the President of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, told the ILC delegates that the situation of the working poor in Nigeria has continued to be dire because of the high and increasing cost of living and rising number of dependents given the deepening unemployment situation; low social protection coverage, delayed payment of salaries among others.

He noted that while organized labour were worried about the delay in the commencement of negotiation, they have gotten commitment from all level, including the National Assembly that they are ready to make sure that the issue is addressed once and for all.

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