Ministers and labour leaders unable to conclude deal on the new N30,000 minimum wage

GOVERNMENT ministers and labour leaders been unable to end the ongoing standoff regarding the implementation of the new N30,000 ($62) a month national minimum wage after a meeting held in Abuja to resolve the matter ended without an agreement.


Over the last few months, labour unions and the government have been negotiating through the Tripartite Committee on the New National Minimum Wage, with both sides coming up with different interpretations of their agreement. According to the unions, it has been agreed to raise the minimum wage to N30,000 a month but in October, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) said it could only afford N22,500.


Labour unions had considered calling nationwide rallies on January 9 as part of moves towards calling a general strike and fearful that industrial action could take place, the government decided to initiate talks. However, after the talks, the two sides could not strike a deal and further negotiations have been scheduled for Monday.


Yesterday, labour minister Chris Ngige, said that after a five-hour long meeting, substantial progress had been made and that all that is left is a final resolution. He added that there was no deadlock as the two sides agreed on most of the issues tabled for discussion and only adjourned to allow for further consultations.


Dr Ngige said President Muhammadu Buhari wanted the issue thrashed out and he would not have set up the tripartite committee on the minimum wage if he was not interested in the matter in the first place. Nigerian labour Congress president Ayuba Wabba, also dismissed any suggestion that the meeting was deadlocked.


Mr Wabba said: “The meeting decided to adjourn and reconvene on Monday for us to do further consultations before the issues are concluded. We have discussed all the issues and all the grey areas,  particularly how we can ensure that the issue is put behind us.


“That is why we took such a long time, including having a timeout to consult but we have not been able to conclude and we have agreed to reconvene to tidy up the process. The issue at stake is to make sure that the bill is transmitted and also other auxiliary issues that government says they are trying to put together.


"We also want to see how the money gets into the pocket of our workers because a lot of economic factors have affected the current wage. However, the major issue is that we have been able to have a meaningful social dialogue but the process is not conclusive and will reconvene on Monday."


He said the outcome of Monday’s meeting would determine whether labour would proceed with its planned rallies on Tuesday. Labour leaders insisted on a definite date when the government will transmit the minimum wage bill to the National Assembly and it is believed ministers want to get clarification on this from President Buhari.


Dr Ngige said the president was committed to giving Nigerian workers a new minimum wage but the government wanted to ensure that the new minimum wage was sustainable. Mr Wabba said the organised labour has always wanted all issues of industrial relations resolved through dialogue,  adding that the issue on ground has nothing to do with money,  but the process leading to the final outcome.