Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige representing the federal government (FG) has reacted to two weeks ultimatum given by organised Labour in the country over new minimum wage which he described as crying wolf were there none, saying the National Minimum Wage Committee set by the federal government was still working within its time frame.
The Minister also said that together with the Chairman of the Committee and former Head of Service of the Federation, Ms Amma Pepple will brief President Muhammadu Buhari on the progress so far made by the committee on Friday.
Ngige said the ultimatum issued by the Labour leaders was unnecessary as the committee was working within the time frame it set for itself, pointing that he regard the ultimatum by Labour as a subtle threat.
He said that the various conventions of the International Labour Organisation that has to do be minimum wage and other forms of negotiations does not allow partners to issue threats as the other partner will be regarded as negotiating under duress
Labour leaders had accused the Minister of delaying arriving at a figure for for the committee to agree on, seeking time for government to consult while,adjourning the meeting indefinitely.
According to the Minister, the work of the committee, including a draft bill to be sent to the President a subsequently to the National Assembly and all other work of the committee were ready except the issue of a particular figure to be agreed upon.
He disclosed that while is is easy for organised Labour to agree on a figure, it was not that easy for the government as it must put into economic situation in the country and the ability of the various state governors to pay the agreed figure.
He said while organised Labour first made a presentation of N56,000 as its demand and withdrew its, only to withdraw it and made another presentation of N65,000, the Organised Private Sector made a presentation of N42,000 and later withdraw it for lower presentation of N25,000.
Ngige said that with all the presentations, the government need to look at everything that has been presented before arriving at a figure which can be paid by all saying “if we arrive at a figure that is not implementable, what then Is the essence of negotiation”.
He explained that at the last meeting of the committee, he requested for two weeks to consult with members of the Economic Management team, most of whom were out of the country with the President, adding that the committee was inaugurated by the president because of his personal interest on the matter.
He said “We don’t want people to renege on the agreement when we finally come up with something. That is why the President insisted that the governors must be part of the process. They had complained that they were not part of the last process.
The Governors Forum had also asked for more time to consult among themselves and dismissed insinuations that the governors said they were not elected to pay salaries.
While accusing organised Labour of trying to over heat the polity, Ngige said the Buhari government was a worker friendly government , adding that no worker has been sacked since the inception of the present government while also putting in place several palliatives for workers.
He said that the federal government spent about N70 billion last year in settling the backlog of workers emoluments, while encouraging the private sector to grow and employ more workers.
He regard he regard the ultimatum by organised Labour as a subtle blackmail which is not allowed in Labour laws.
Organised Labour had issued a two week ultimatum to the government t to resume and conclude the work of the minimum wage committee, but Ngige said the committee was still working within the deadline it set for itself.