By G9ija

Worried by the delay in the implementation of the new National Minimum Wage, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the immediate conclusion of negotiation on the consequential adjustment between the government and the Joint National Public Service Negating Council.

This is expected to pave the way for the implementation of the new wage regime.

The President also directed the setting up of a Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages, which will be saddled with receiving complaints, reviewing salaries and work schedule as well as assigning appropriate salaries to different categories of workers.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, stated this when he hosted the leadership and members of the Labour Correspondents’ Association of Nigeria (LACAN) in his office in Abuja.

He said the President had directed that a time limit be set for the conclusion of negotiation between the government and workers.

Negotiation between representatives of both sides had been stalled several times due to their unyielding presentations and refusal to shift ground.

At the last sitting of the negotiating team, it was agreed that the government team should take both presentations to the President for intervention, while a meeting was scheduled for September 4, but it was later rescheduled.

Ngige said President Buhari was worried that the delay in concluding negotiation might lead to a huge backlog of arrears that many states may not be able to pay as they were waiting for the conclusion of negotiation at the federal level.

The minister stated the intention of government to reinvigorate factory inspectorate across the country to ensure that workers have decent work environment.

He said: “My Department of Inspectorate as well as Employment and Wage are going to do more. We are going to fund them so that we can start full factory inspection, make sure that nobody is underemployed and those in employment get what they deserve in the world of work so that they can have decent work.

“Part of it is the New Minimum Wage, which the President signed into law in April. It is a pity that after signing it, May came and a lot of us were sent on compulsory leave. We are now coming back from the leave. If you remember, a committee was set up and I was a member.

“When we left, the Permanent Secretaries took our place and were negotiating with the Joint Negotiating Council on the consequential adjustment. The states are waiting for that and it is not proper for us not to fast-track that negotiation so that even the states will not have too much backlog to pay when the consequential adjustment is concluded.

“We (Federal Government) have our own budgeted for in the 2019 budget and we’re going to also budget for it in the 2020 budget. We are concerned about the states because some of them are not proactive like us.

“So, the sooner we conclude at the federal level and the Joint Negotiating Councils in the states takes it from there and negotiate with the states, the better for everybody. If we spill this into next year, I am not sure how many states will be able to pay the backlog, which will lead us to another round of negotiation.

“It is the determination of the President and this administration to fast-track the negotiation on consequential adjustment. I have just received a correspondence from the Chief of Staff to the President and we are putting a deadline to that negotiation.”

“We are fast-tracking it because the government will also want to put in place a Presidential Committee on Salaries and Allowances that will be able to take requests after this consequential adjustment.

“That same committee will appraise the level of workload and evaluate all cadres of work and come out with salaries and allowances commensurate with each. It is one of the things the government has decided and I have just seen the correspondence.

“When the details are out, we will let you know. That is to show workers in the public and private sectors that this government is labour-friendly and we want them to be in the decent work world.”

The minister traced the recent security challenges in the country to increasing level of unemployment.

He also expressed government concerns about recreation of the middle class, which he said had vanished from the country, and tackle unemployment.

“The President is committed to recreating the middle class in Nigeria. He is committed to lifting at least 100 million people out of poverty and the only way is for our economy to improve. When our economy improves, we would deal a big blow to poverty, social insecurity and insecurity of life and property. We have to make our country a better place because we cannot run away from that. We all have a collective responsibility,” he said.

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