The Federal Government has described the 14-day ultimatum given by the organised labour in Nigeria as “a subtle blackmail” to stampede the Tripartite Committee on the new National Minimum Wage.
Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment stated this at a news conference on Thursday in Abuja, noting that the ultimatum was uncalled for.
Labour leaders, who are members of the Minimum Wage Committee at a joint news conference addressed in Lagos, gave the federal government 14 days to ensure that the committee conclude its work or be ready to face industrial action.
However, Ngige refuted claims by the workforce that the Federal Government was trying to stall negotiations about the minimum wage.
He also said that the Federal Government had requested that the state governors give a tentative figure, noting that they had not yet been able to make available.
The minister further said that the Federal Government delegation had written, as a committee, to the state governments and had also followed it up with visits and is still awaiting their response.
Ngige said that the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) had further requested for time to do more work on what their delegation in the committee had proposed and requested for an extension of time.
Ngige said: “The following facts speak in that direction, if the Federal Government is not interested, why did Mr. President inaugurate the Presidential Committee on the new National Minimum Wage?
“If it is not interested, Mr. President would have asked me to do an inter-ministerial meeting, but Mr. President took interest and set up a presidential committee.
“This Presidential Committee, he monitors it and I also brief him from time to time, both written and verbally.
“As a matter of fact, before the meeting adjourned last week, I have told the committee that the Economic Management Team could not hold.
“This is due to the fact that most people in the team travelled with Mr. President to China.
“Also, if the Federal Government is not interested, why will I brief the entire tripartite committee and tell them that work is in progress? “He asked.
The minister also noted that he had requested for two weeks from the committee to enable the Federal Government delegation consult with state government delegation.
“That means that the meeting can be called at any time, in one day or within three days which is still stipulated within the month of September.
“So,it is very surprising to know that labour gave an ultimatum of 14 days to the Federal Government, this is uncalled for and a subtle blackmail to the Federal Government.
“The Chairperson of Tripartite Committee on the new National Minimum Wage would lead a delegation on Friday to brief Mr President on the negotiations so far.
Ngige further assured Nigerian workers that there was no cause for alarm, adding that Federal Government was working assiduously to ensure the implementation of the minimum wage, soonest.
“We were unable to fix a figure because of many factors that have occurred. For example, the components in review, organised labour finds easy to give a figure.
“They have brought a figure which is N56, 000 and later change it to N65, 000 and it is within their ambit to do so.
“The organised private sector also brought a figure, initially they brought N42, 000, and by last week before the Committee on National Minimum Wage adjourned they brought their own figure down to N25, 000.
“The organised private sector also took into account the economic situation in the country, the ability to pay and the ability to enhance and create new jobs in the country.
“So, it is important for us to look at all those things because one of the cardinal principles of the International Labour Organisation is the minimum wage fixing, which is the ability to pay,” Ngige added.