Controversies surrounding the new national minimum wage may be laid to rest next week, as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is expected to preside over the Economic Management Team meeting.
According to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, the meeting which will have in attendance most of the 36 state governors will be solely dedicated to addressing the thorny issues of the minimum wage.
He said baring any resolutions to come after the proposed meeting, workers in the country will have cause to smile as President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to their welfare.
Ngige gave this impression to State House Correspondents after he and the chairman of the negotiation committee, Ms. Amma Pepple, a former Head of Service of the Federation, briefed President Muhammadu Buhari on the progress made so far by the committee on Friday.
“Next week we have an economic management team meeting on Tuesday, specially dedicated to the issue of national minimum wage to be chaired by the vice president.
“For anybody to say that this government is stalling or playing games will be uncharitable, because, we have done what we are supposed to do. We have the interest of workers at heart, we have not retrenched anybody, there is no embargo on employment, there is no embargo on promotions, we are paying backlog of promotional arrears, we are backing backlog of transfers and repatriation and the rest of them and we are giving them houses under FISH and the rest of them.
“So this government is a labour-friendly government and we must put smiles on their faces before the next election…we are labour activists we don’t want to turn our backs on them.”
Pepple on her part said the committee will submit its report before the end of September, adding that they need a definite figure from government side and to harmonise with states, where most of the workers are domiciled.
According to her, “Everything is on course but we need a definite figure from government and of course we have to carry the states along. So, we need those figures so that we can conclude on the figures we include in our report.”
On how soon the new minimum wage will be ready, Pepple said, “This month. At least I expect our report will be ready this month. We are submitting our report to Mr. President this month.”
Ngige had on Thursday accused the organised labour of blackmailing the government following a two-week ultimatum given by the latter for the conclusion of negotiation on the matter.
According to him, the Labour leaders were unnecessarily blackmailing and intimidating government to pass a new minimum wage that it may end up reneging on.
Ngige blamed certain factors such as inability of governors to provide their figures to be debated by the committee negotiating the new minimum wage as one of the reasons for the delay, just as he assured that government was still within the timeframe it promised to deliver on a new minimum wage and was not stalling the process as alleged by labour.
According to Ngige, the organised private sector had initially proposed a figure of N42,000 but later brought it down to N25,000, taking into account the current economic situation, ability to pay and ability to enhance and create new jobs.