Organised labour on Friday said it will not subscribe to retrenchment of worker as option to the implementation of N30,000 minimum wage, saying the government has not been sincere with the amount needed for the implementation.
It dismissed as cheap blackmail a statement by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, that the Federal Government might lay off some workers in the public service should labour insist on having its way on the implementation of the minimum wage.
The Secretary, Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC), Alade Lawal, told The Nation that the claim by Ngige that government would require N580 billion annually to pay workers the minimum wage across board as demanded by labour was false.
“As far as we are concerned, anybody talking about retrenchment is cheap blackmail. We don’t subscribe to that. If they like, let them come to the negotiation table so that we can reach an agreement and implement so that everybody can move on.
“The figure they are parading is not correct. They don’t need N580 billion. They don’t need it to implement the minimum wage.
“The number of employees in the federal public service is not up to one million. They say it is 1.33 million. Let them disaggregate it and tell Nigerians. Break it down and let us do verification.
“The component part of these 1.33 million employees they are talking about is the consolidated public salary structure which majorly is domiciled under the IPPIS platform.
“As we speak, the employees there are not up to 70,000. They said in their own papers they are using for negotiation is 183,000. Where do they get all those things from?
“Because you want to negotiate something now you come to negotiation table and you start playing with figures. It is so sad. They think they are talking to the labour of pre-independence. Some of them are just lucky to be there. It is not that they are better than some of us.”
He said the government team negotiating the consequential adjustment on minimum wage was yet to reach out to labour to tell them when negotiation would resume.
Lawal insisted that labour would not back down on its percentage increase demand from government for workers on levels 7-14 and levels 15-17.
“You know where we started from. We started from 66.66 per cent across board because the minimum wage was increased from N18,000 to N30,000, an increase of 66.66 per cent.
“So we said apply that across board. They cried that the federal government would not be able to pay. For levels 7-14, we came down to 50 per cent. Then for levels 15-17, 40 per cent, but they said they cannot pay.
“We came down again for levels 7-14, 40 per cent and levels 15-17 30 per cent. They cried loud and said they could not pay. We came down again; levels 7-14, 35 per cent, levels 15-17 30 per cent. Again, they said they cannot pay. We came down again. Levels 7-14, 30 per cent, levels 15-17, 25 per cent, yet they said they cannot pay before we came down to this 29 per cent for levels 7-14 and 24 per cent for levels 15-17.
“To start talking about going down now will make us look unserious; that is the meaning.”
Lawal also said labour was not sure if President Muhammadu Buhari had been properly briefed on the stalemate.
He said: “Now they are not telling Mr. President the truth. That is my worry. “Truly, they are his aides.
“If we cannot reach him, they are the ones that will reach him. And if we say it is A and they go to him and say it is B, since he has not put on the table the machinery to fact-check most of the things they are telling him, it will be difficult. That is the tragedy of the whole situation. It is very, very sad.”
Ngige: The Times Call For Sacrifice
A statement issued by Ngige’s Special Adviser on Media, Nwachukwu Obidiwe, yesterday, quoted the minister as asking workers to make some sacrifice for the country.
It also described the minister’s warning about the consequences of meeting labour’s demand as patriotic.
The statement said: “The statement made by the minister yesterday (Thursday) concerning the consequential adjustment on the minimum wage is patriotic.
“Government has promised a thorough ventilation of all issues.
“When negotiation resumes government is going to open its books for labour to see the federal government income and expenditure.
“The times call for sacrifice.”
Receiving a delegation of the United Labour Congress (ULC) led by its President, Mr. Joe Ajeiro, on Thursday, Ngige had said that the implementation of the new minimum wage based on figures worked out by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) was not sustainable.
Government, according to him, does not want a situation where it will have to lay off workers, as doing so will add to the burden of the citizenry.
Ngige appealed to labour to accept the consequential adjustment from levels 7 to 17, adding that the federal government had only three months left to implement the new minimum wage.
He said: “Government cannot afford that kind of money now. Besides, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is more interested in the lowest cadre of workers which are those on grade level 1 step 1 and level 6 step 1. These are the ones who the N30,000 will have greater impact on.
“Government has done their own homework and brought out what they can use to defend this consequential adjustment. Grade 1 to 6 does not have any problem, but 7 to 14 band and 15 to 17 band, this is where we have the problem.
“So if you push government to go and accede to an increment which its resources cannot accommodate, you are indirectly asking them to retrench workers so that the few that are remaining will get this ‘big big’ money. We don’t want that.
“From 2015 the president has made it clear that he is not out to inflict pains on Nigerians and that he does not want to create unemployment”.