18 June 2019

Nigeria: Ministry of Labour and the Wage Crisis (II)

After Independence in 1960, the ministry has grown steadily, renamed the Federal Ministry of Employment Labour and Productivity in 1979 and the Ministry of Labour in January 2007.

The outward-facing divisions in the Ministry of Labour are trade union services and industrial relations; employment and wages, and inspectorate.

The trade union services division formulates policies on trade union organizations and manages disputes and complaints.

It also assists in workers' education, and keeps records on trade unions and their activities. Internally oriented departments are human resources, finance and supplies; policy, analysis, research and statistics.

Formulation of policies

The ministry is responsible for several parastatals (government-owned agencies): Michael Imoudu National Institute For Labour Studies, MINILS, Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF, National Directorate of Employment, NDE, National Productivity Centre, NPC, National Industrial Court and Industrial Arbitration Panel, IAP.

In the early sixties and seventies it was the Ministry of Labour that employed workers especially artisans and then posted these workers to ministries and government parastatals.

As for the graduates, they are employed by the Federal Civil Service Commission. The Ministry of Labour then used to be very powerful with even the trade centres serving as units under the Ministry of Labour.

The road to achieving the N30,000 minimum was not easy. The relationship between the Ministry of Labour and the Nigeria Labour Congress have also not been easy. If there is one major achievement President Muhammadu Buhari can point to in his first term it is the minimum wage. And no doubt, the credit for this should go to Dr. Chris Ngige. Every minister of labour will tell you that negotiations with the labour leaders especially the Nigerian Labour Congress has not been easy.

Arm twisting, threat, coercion and other forms of pressure come into play during negotiations. Sometimes you have to cajole, entrap, decoy, blandish or even manoevre during negotiations in other to achieve a final conclusion. For the degree to which negotiating parties trust each other is a major factor in determining whether negotiations are successful.

In the case of the minimum wage, both Dr. Ngige and the Nigerian Labour Congress came to a conclusion. The various state governments have no choice but to implement the N30,000 minimum wage. I pity those who refuse to implement the minimum wage bill signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 18 this year.

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