Chris Ngige; ‘Minimum Wage Won’t Be Ready By Sept.’
WORKERS’ expectations of getting a new national minimum wage by the end of September would not materialise, Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige said yesterday.
He explained that the September date is just for conclusion of negotiation on the issue of the minimum wage.
Ngige, in an interview with reporters yesterday at his home in Abuja, said the committee on the new minimum wage is expected to conclude its work by the end of September and its report will be thereafter presented for deliberation.
This, he added, will be followed by an approval before an Executive Bill will be presented to the National Assembly on the issue.
He noted that the issue of availability of funds to pay the new wage would be paramount in the deliberations.
Ngige said the committee embarked on zonal public hearing across the country to get the input of those concerned, including state governments and the organised private sector.
The minister said in the course of the zonal public hearings, many state governments made different submissions ranging from N22,000 monthly minimum wage to N58,000.
The minister added that the governors were also of the opinion that for the new minimum wage to become effective, the present revenue allocation formula would have to be reviewed in favour of the states and local governments.
He said some other states submitted that the minimum wage should be maintained at the present N18,000 in view of the inability of some states to pay the wages.
Ngige said when the minimum wage committee concludes its report, it would be submitted to the National Council of State and the Federal Executive Council for approval before a bill is sent to the National Assembly to legalise the committee’s work.
He said even though it was not an easy task, the committee was making progress in its assigned responsibility and noted that it was in order to carry everybody, including the states and private sector, that six governors were elected to be members of the committee as well as representatives of the organised private sector.
On the threat by non-teaching staff of universities to resume their suspended strike as a result of alleged government’s failure to honour the terms of their agreement, the minister said government was sourcing the N6 billion needed to pay them their earned allowances as contained in the agreement.
He said from his experience as Minister of Labour, majority of about 95 per cent of agreements presently being paraded by trade unions were signed before the Buhari administration came into office in 2015.
Most of such agreements, he explained, had no timeline for implementation.
He said many of the agreements signed by the last government were not implementable because of the amount involved.
The principles of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Ngige said, allowed employers to renegotiate agreements, which they feel they cannot implement.
The minister appealed to striking health workers to return to work while negotiations continue on their demands.
Ngige noted that the delay in the implementation of their signed agreement was as a result of failure of the National Salaries, Wages and Income Commission to defend the two different figures presented to a government high-powered committee.
He said the committee has directed the commission and the Federal Ministry of Health to go back and recompile the figures for onward submission to the committee for deliberation.