Following failure of the Federal Government and organised labour to reach an agreement on the consequential adjustment of the new minimum wage, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has advised both parties to approach the National Industrial Court (NIC) to resolve all lingering issues. Both government and the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC) have engaged in consistent disagreements and breakdown in negotiations. While labour has threatened to embark on strike should government fail to meet its demands before October 16, Federal Government has raised concerns over the sustainability of the proposed demands by the unions.
Director General, NECA, Timothy Olawale, who gave the advice yesterday in Abuja, during a courtesy call over the reappointment of Senator Chris Ngige as Minister of Labour and Employment, said rather than allow workers embark on strike if dialogue or negotiation fails, both parties should embrace legal process to find a common ground.
According to him, all mechanisms of settling a dispute must be explored before embarking on an industrial action, which must always remain the last resort.
He added that although it was unlikely labour would not down tools as both parties were shifting grounds, he called for the matter to be resolved.
His words: “We have a very robust dispute resolution mechanism; that is why I keep telling our colleagues at the other side the very last action to take is strike when every other thing else has failed.
“Even though you have issues with government, you cannot separate government from the economy and say you are going to strike and deal with government, then private sector and the larger masses will be at the receiving end. It’s not possible. If NUPENG and tanker drivers go on strike now, everybody be affected, even the Nigerian workers we are fighting for will be affected.
“Let us follow due process if dialogue or negotiations fail irretrievably. Either of the party or both parties can approach NIC to adjudicate on this matter. It is a veritable way rather than for us to embrace industrial action and I have been shouting this repeatedly we have to get to a stage where we test our process, we have to get to a stage in our development where we do not have laws just on the pages of papers or rather we allow it to be a process that guides the way we do things.”
Olawale, who noted that government should begin implementation of the new wage for junior workers within the threshold of N30,000 while negotiations for senior workers continue, urged the Federal Government, labour unions, workers and the private sector to unanimously work on the details of aligning compensation with productivity.
On his part, Ngige noted that organised labour had mistakenly joined the issue of consequential movement upstairs and the issue of a total wage review together.
Ngige, who raised concerns over the increase in personnel budget from N1.888 trillion to N3.08 trillion, explained that President Muhammadu Buhari had foreseen the issues trailing the new national minimum wage, and had set up a presidential committee on salaries and wages with a mandate to submit its findings on December 9.
According to him, findings arising from the presidential committee would assist in guiding the Federal Government in the overall structural wage review expected to come into place by 2020.
Ngige said: “The main issue is the consequential adjustment and I have talked to the other leg of tripartism that the consequential adjustment is not synonymous with the total wage review; it is an adjustment that you do consequential removing the last man at the last room of the ladder to N30,000 and by so doing, you have impeded on other salary grade levels and, therefore, you must consequentially move up.
“Consequential movement up doesn’t mean that you do a percentage of the former minimum wage to the present minimum wage. So we have agreed on that, but the issue is that they have mistakenly bonded the two things together: the issue of consequential movement upstairs and the issue of a total wage review.
“The Federal Government as a way of anticipating this kind of situation arising put in place last month a presidential committee on salaries and wages. We are working on that area. That area is important because the federal budget of personnel cost has risen very astronomically from N1.888 trillion to N3.08 trillion between 2016 and 2020.
“A very major rise that is more than 100 per cent and it’s worrisome. Therefore, government has put up this committee to find all the earnings in the public service of the federation in view to making sure that quantum of work viz-a-viz quantum of money gotten are synchronised in such a way that productivity will come into play.”