Minimum wage: NECA disagrees with labour, calls for dialogue

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The Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) has called on organised labour to shelve the proposed October 16 national strike over the consequential adjustment of the National Minimum Wage and exhaust all mechanisms of social dialogue.

It further advised labour to allow the National Industrial Court to adjudicate the matter if the tripartite dialogue fails. Director General of NECA, Timothy Olawale, made the call while leading a delegation of the association on a courtesy call on the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige and the Minister of State, Festus Keyamo.

“If dialogue or negotiation fails irretrievably, though it is an unlikely event; but, let’s even assume we get to that point; downing tools is not the next course of action.

“In the worst scenario, because you think the ministry is a party to the disagreement and it can’t subject you to mediation (because you can’t be judge in your own case) and you don’t have faith in the Industrial Arbitration Panel because it is still supervised by the ministry.

“As a matter of fact, it is the minister that will refer it to IAP, approach the National Industrial Court then, to adjudicate on the matter,” the NECA boss implored. He added that “whatever the outcome is, all parties have to abide by it. It is a veritable way out instead of embarking on industrial action.

“We have to get to a stage in our development where we have to test our processes, where we don’t just have laws on the pages of newspapers, but rather, allow it to be a process to guide our actions and the way we do things. “I hope this matter is resolved and doesn’t lead to industrial action on October 17.” Addressing the delegation, Sen. Ngige traced the present impasse over the consequential adjustment of the National Minimum Wage for Grade Levels 7 to 17 to a wrong interpretation of the increase by the organised labour as meaning a total national wage review. “Consequential adjustment of the minimum wage is the main issue.

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It is not synonymous with total wage review. It is an adjustment you do consequentially; moving the last man at the last rung of ladder to N30, 000 and by so doing, impinging on other salary grade levels, therefore must consequentially move them up too. “But, the consequential movement up doesn’t mean you do a percentage of the former minimum wage to the present minimum wage which is 67 per cent.

The issue is that they mistakenly, lumped the two things together; the issue of consequential movement upstairs and the issue of total wage review,” Ngige said. The minister further revealed that the Federal Government personnel cost had risen astronomically from N1.88 trillion to N3.08 trillion between 2016 to date.

He added that it is in anticipation of adverse consequences that President Muhammadu Buhari recently set up a five-man presidential committee on salaries and wages to “evaluate all the earnings in the public service so to make sure that quantum of work vis-a-vis quantum of money were synchronised in such a way that productivity would also come into play. “We have instances of people who have the same degree, some have first class honours, second class honours (upper division), but you have another person who has a third class.

“The one with third class finds himself in public establishment where he is earning X-amount and another person with second class upper is in the core civil service and earns X/3, which is one third of X, it doesn’t make sense. So, that is the essence of that particular presidential committee and we have been given the mandate to finish our work by December 9.” Commending NECA for the patriotic role it played during the negotiations for the minimum wage, Ngige solicited its assistance towards its faithful implementation in the private sector, noting that the sector had over the years been on self-adjustment towards the N30, 000 base earning for workers through its collective bargaining agreement policy.

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He charged NECA to intensify efforts in re-invigorating professional unions of employers who have been passive so as to in turn enable workers unions in such establishments be active enough to benefit the values of unionism.

He added that labour inspectors from the Inspectorate Division of the Ministry would as from next year be actively engaged in inspection of factories and industries to ensure compliance to the National Minimum Wage, occupational safety as well as enforce expatriate quota and stop capital flight. He further urged the organisation to branch out its offices and operations to all the zones of the country and further promised that the National Labour Advisory Council whose inauguration had suffered setback as result of budgetary constraints would be held before the end of the end year.

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