Abuja — The federal government Thursday declared that it would not be able to meet the demand of organised labour on the percentage for consequential adjustment of the N30,000 new minimum wage due to dwindling revenue.
The government said it would appoint a new team to represent it in the committee negotiating the consequential adjustment.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who conveyed government's position during a courtesy visit by the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), said the federal government felt there was a need to tell the truth on the poor state of the economy.
According to him, the federal government has decided to reconstitute the team representing it in the committee negotiating the consequential adjustment.
The minister said: "Government is not averse to the consequential adjustment; what we are saying is that we should try for all parties to agree; that the economy is in the doldrums; that the economy has some troubles, and therefore, we have to cut our coat according to our cloth. That is the most important thing."
While explaining the delay in concluding the committee's assignment, Ngige said the government's team was depleted due to the fact that he and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning had to withdraw from the committee at the end of the last administration.
"The committee was inaugurated in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), late April. But when the committee started work, I was a member; the finance minister was a member; budget and planning minister was a member, but our council died on 29th May, with the expiration of time. We were dissolved, the budget and planning minister didn't come back; the permanent secretary took my place and started the negotiations.
"I do not want to say that they didn't make progress; they made progress because at least, from levels one to six, they got something, and from the time we were coming back, we saw that they were making progress. Unfortunately, the head of service, the chair of that committee had to go on compulsory leave and it is not easy when some other person is going to act and move in," he said.
Negotiations on the implementation of the new minimum wage had ended in a deadlock following the failure of the government team and the leadership of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC) to agree on the percentage of adjustment that will apply in the computation of the new wage for grade levels 7-17.
While the federal government had shifted ground from its earlier position of 9.5 per cent to 11 per cent for grade levels seven to 14 and 6.5 per cent from 5.5 per cent for levels 15 to 17, representatives of labour however, insisted that the government should adjust the salaries of workers on grade levels 07 to 14 by 30 per cent and those on levels 15 to 17 by 25 per cent.
The organised labour, however, stepped down to 29 per cent from 30 per cent for grade levels 7 to 14 and 24 to 25 per cent for levels 15 to 17.
Ngige, who responded to the concern expressed by the President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, over the delay in reaching a deal with the unions, said the present economic situation had made it difficult to accept the demand of the labour.
However, Ngige, who was flanked by the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, assured the workers that negotiations would be swift as soon as the new government team is formed.
He added that the ministry will not allow arrears to pile up to the extent that such would constitute a burden for the federal and state governments to pay.
On the request by the NLC president that the ministry should move to establish the National Labour Advisory Council, Ngige said government would hold a convention to inaugurate the council later in the year as soon as funds were made available.
He also expressed government's concern over the rising unemployment in the country, describing it as highly worrisome.
He said the organised labour should not limit itself to just advocating for workers' rights but should liaise with the government and the private sector to create jobs.
Earlier, Wabba listed some issues labour would want the minister to address.