The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, announced on Thursday that the federal government would have to lay off workers to be able to meet a wage bill of N580 billion needed to meet labour’s demand on the new wage.
Mr Ngige told labour leaders in Abuja that the sum was what would be needed by government to pay the consequential adjustments as demanded by labour.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the minister’s announcement is the latest in the increasing drama over payment of the new wage.
A Bill for the New Minimum Wage was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 18.
Mr Ngige was speaking when the leadership of the United Labour Congress (ULC), paid him a courtesy visit in his office.
Government and labour have been locked in an endless tussle over modalities for the payment of the new wage, long expected by workers.
Mr Ngige said that federal government was avoiding a situation where it would have to lay off workers, noting that throwing workers into unemployment would add to their burden.
The minister pleaded with labour to accept the consequential adjustment from levels 7 to 17, adding that government had only three months left to implement the new wage.
He stated that government would not promise labour what it could not pay, noting that no worker deserved to be owed salary.
Mr Ngige disclosed that the federal government had so far paid arrears of N500 billion to workers, including the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
He restated that implementation of the new wage had since commenced for workers on grade level 1 to 6, adding that the development had helped those on the lower cadre in the civil service to move up.
It will be recalled that government had told labour unions that it could only pay 9.5 per cent salary raise for employees on grade levels 07 to14 and five per cent for those on grade levels 15 to17.
But labour is demanding 30 per cent raise for officers on grade levels 07 to 14 and 25 per cent for those on grade levels 15-17.
Public sector workers in Nigeria receive some of the lowest pay cheques in the world, although political office holders receive fat salaries, analysts said.
The President of UCL, Joe Ajaero, appealed for payment of the new wage, stressing that the private sector should also be compelled to pay the N30, 000 minimum wage.
He said there was need to review obsolete laws that were not in tune with present realities, noting that a situation where some private sector employers paid their employees N10, 000 and N15, 000 was unacceptable.