By Helen Shok Jok. Abuja.
The Nigeria Employers Consultative Association NECA has called on the Nigerian Government and organised labour in Nigeria, to explore every available peaceful means to resolving the impasse between them on the implementation of the new National Minimum Wage already signed into law by the President since April 18th 2019.
NECA believes that exploring the way of peace will nib in the bud any impending industrial action by workers in the country.
The Director General NECA, Timothy Olawale made the call in Abuja when he led a delegation of the association on a courtesy call on the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige and the Minister of State Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
The leadership of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association were at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment to felicitate with Dr Chris Ngige who returned as Minister of Labour and Employment and Mr Festus Keyamo, Senior Advocate of Nigeria was appointed Minister of State, Labour and Employment.
Mr Olawole, called for the re-invigoration of the National Labour Advisory Council so that labour issues would be addressed through the body before it gets out of hand.
“If dialogue or negotiation fails irretrievably, though it is an unlikely event, but let’s even assume we get to that point, downing tools is not the next course of action.
“In the worst scenario, because you think the Ministry is a party to the disagreement and it can’t subject you to mediation -because you can’t be judge in your own case- and you don’t have faith in Industrial Arbitration Panel because it is still supervised by the Ministry, as a matter of fact, it is the Minister that will refer it to IAP , approach the National Industrial Court then, to adjudicate on the matter.
“Whatever the outcome is, all parties have to abide by it. It is a veritable way out instead of embarking on industrial action.
“We have to get to a stage in our development where we have to test our process, where we don’t just have laws on the pages of newspapers but rather, allow it to be a process to guide our actions and the way we do things.
“I hope this matter is resolved and doesn’t lead to industrial action on October 17”, Mr Olawole said.
Mr Olawole also promised that NECA would continue to partner with the government and organised labour to ensure industrial peace in the country.
Other issues the NECA boss tabled before the Ministers include, the need to review what he called obsolete labour laws, revival of moribund unions and quick identification of sectors where there are labour unrest for necessary interventions and the state of the Michael Imoudu Institute of Labour Studies, which he said would be held behind closed doors.
Responding, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, solicited the help of NECA to prevail on organised labour in the country to appreciate government’s position on the percentages proposed by the government on the consequential adjustment of the new national minimum wage adding that consequential adjustment is not synonymous with wage increase.
He commended NECA for what he called the patriotic role it played during the negotiations for the Minimum Wage, and solicited its assistance towards its faithful implementation in the private sector, noting that the sector had over the years been on self-adjustment towards the N30,000 base earning for workers through its Collective Bargaining Agreement policy .
The Minister said that the present impasse is over the Consequential Adjustment of the National Minimum Wage for Grade Levels 7 to 17 saying that labour has a wrong interpretation of the increase as meaning a total national wage review.
According to him, “Consequential Adjustment of the Minimum Wage is the main issue .
“It is not synonymous with total wage review. It is an adjustment you do consequentially; moving the last man at the last rung of ladder to N30,000 and by so doing, impinging on other salary Grade Levels, therefore must consequentially move them up too.
“But the consequential movement up doesn’t mean you do a percentage of the former minimum wage to the present minimum wage which is 67% . The issue is that they mistakenly lumped the two things together – the issue of consequential movement upstairs and the issue of total wage review”, Ngige said.
The Minister further revealed that the Nigerian Government personnel cost had risen astronomically from N1.88 trillion to N3.08 trillion between 2016 to date, explaining that it was in anticipation of adverse consequences that President Muhammadu Buhari recently set up, a five-man Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages to “evaluate all the earnings in the public service so to make sure that quantum of work vis-a-vis quantum of money were synchronized in such a way that productivity would also come into play”.
He charged NECA to intensify efforts in re-invigorating professional unions of employers who have been passive so as to in turn enable workers unions in such establishments be active enough to benefit the values of unionism.
He explained that labour inspectors from the Inspectorate Division of the Ministry would as from next year be actively engaged in inspection of factories and industries to ensure compliance to the National Minimum Wage, occupational safety as well as enforce expatriate quota and stop capital flight.
He also urged the organisation to branch out its offices and operations to all the zones of the country and further promised that the National Labour Advisory Council whose inauguration had suffered setback as result of budgetary constraints would be held before the end of the end year.