The Federal Government is working towards an early implementation of a new minimum wage, Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation has said.
Mr Mustapha made this known on Thursday in Abuja at the opening of a one-day symposium on the 25th anniversary of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission which has "Overcoming the Challenges of Compensation and Productivity in Nigeria" as its theme.
Represented by Olusegun Adekunle, the Permanent Secretary, General Services Office, Office of the SGF, Mr Mustapha said that the present administration was committed to the welfare of Nigerian workers.
He said, "I wish to point out that the focus of the national minimum income wage is on government employees, this critical sector ought not to be left behind and nobody will be left behind.
"Such employees are also dominantly found in the informal sector and the small scale organisations.
"However, it is important to know that the revision of the minimum wage should be taken through due process and all key stakeholders carried along."
Mr Mustapha said the pay relativity question could not be resolved without the development and implementation of a new job evaluation scheme.
He, therefore, urged the NSIWC to commence the process, adding that government had also observed that productivity needed to take the centre stage in wage determination.
He also urged the commission to leverage on the pilot schemes it was working on in collaboration with the National Productivity Centre to raise a production team in the public service.
The government scribe said that public office holders must bear in mind that remuneration packages for their various offices were appropriately spelt out in the law.
He added that it would be inappropriate for anyone to allow himself to be paid higher than what the law stipulates, noting that "any infraction reported by NSIWC in the course of carrying out its mandate shall be investigated and punished by the anti-graft agencies infuture."
According to him, the government is concerned about the spate of strikes in the country as it affects the economy over the last decade, especially the public sector.
He called on labour unions to resist the urge to resort to work stoppages without exhausting alternatives and more peaceful options for conflict resolution.
He said that the Federal Government remained committed to the stability and development of the economy and service delivery to the public as stakeholders in the nation.
Ayuba Wabba, the president, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said that "in our system today, it is the political class that determines the wages of workers, while the political class determines and collects what it wants, which is higher.
"There must be social justice in wage fixing, therefore, this issue is an issue that I think the wages commission needs to engage our political class and get this information to them.
"We have heard arguments where state governors say workers are a tiny minority, I do not know who is the tiny minority between the political class and the working class.
"The political class are the tiny minority because they cannot say that our workers, including the police, the armed forces, which without them they cannot sleep with their eyes closed, are the minority."
Mr Wabba decried a situation where the nation had more than 25 salary structures for the same system "when what should rather be operational was the principle of equal pay for equal productivity.
"Our compensation process should be a process that can stimulate productivity because the two work together. If a worker is not paid and cannot take care of his or her family and pay school fees, can he or she be productive?
"With better condition of service and compensation, I will be able to think well, work well and therefore the two must work together."
Bala Kaigama, the president of Trade Union Congress (TUC) said the disparity in the salaries and income wages system was engendered by the NSIWC and was not fair to core civil servants.
He said that it was of great concern to members of the union, adding that there were many salary structures in the public service.
According to him, of all the structures in existence, that which operates in the civil service is the lowest in terms of remuneration, while other structures are high.
He noted that "it is, therefore, becoming extremely difficult to explain the reasons behind these differences in salary structure, which in most cases short-changed civil servants.
"Recently, the salaries of the police received an upward review and when you look at what is going on at the top echelon, compared to the top echelon in the civil service, the gap is just too wide.
"You may be surprised to know that in some agencies and parastatals of government, junior officers earn as much as N200,000 per month, while officers in the directorate level in core ministries that supervise these parastatals receive less than that."
He said that the TUC had produced a memorandum on salary review for the core civil service and had submitted same to Federal Government for necessary action.
Mr Kaigama said that the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council was already involved in implementing the submissions of the memorandum, adding that there was need for the NSIWC to also be involved.
Richard Egbule, the chairman of NSIWC, said that the role of the commission was essential, as it was set up to examine, streamline and recommend salary scales applicable to each post in the public service.
He said that in the 25 years of its existence, the commission had contributed to adjustments on wages, salary allowances and pensions in the country.
He, however, explained that many of the commission's functions relating to income policy guidelines could not operate in today's deregulated economic space.
This, he said, was because though the commission was established based on the recommendations of the Udoji Commission of 1974, its enabling Act put an end to the Productivity, Prices and Incomes Board (PPIB) Act and transferred its responsibilities to the NSIWC.
"That is why when people talk about the absence of wage policy, they forget that any wage policy that allows non-wage incomes to rove about without check, can be counter-productive," he stressed. (NAN)