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Ahead of the expiration of the ultimatum issued by labour unions over the minimum wage implementation, the unions have asked their branches across the country to get set for an industrial action.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how labour leaders issued a communiqué, warning that economic activities would be shut on October 16 if the federal government failed to reconvene a meeting of the committee on consequential adjustments of workers salaries based on the new minimum wage.

The unions, led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), also insisted that the government should hold a final meeting on October 15 to resolve the disagreements.

The federal government and the unions have met on different occasions to deliberate and resolve the minimum wage controversy.

The latest meeting was held on Wednesday.

After the first phase of negotiations collapsed due to percentage differences between the two parties, the federal government’s negotiating team and the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, which is representing labour unions in the negotiation, are scheduled to meet again on October 15.

The meetings notwithstanding, labour unions are preparing for a strike action should their demands not be met.

The General Secretary of Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, Alade Lawal, last week said mobilisation of workers for a possible industrial action after October 16 had reached an advanced stage.

He said the partial implementation of the minimum wage for levels one to six was a ‘divide and rule’ system that would be vehemently opposed by labour.

In furtherance to the union’s threat, the General Secretary of the NLC, Emma Ugbiaja, has now asked the union’s members to prepare for industrial action should no agreement be reached by Wednesday.

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”You will recall that a joint Communique…

said industrial harmony could not be guaranteed in the country should an agreement not be reached with the Federal Government on the Consequential Adjustment of Salaries as a result of the New National Minimum Wage of N30,000,” the letter by Mr Ugbiaja to the union’s members reads.

”You are hereby directed to coordinate preparations with TUC and JPSNC in your State for necessary industrial action should the time expire without an agreement as contained in the communique.”

The Disagreement

The major issue delaying the full implementation of the minimum wage is the percentage salary increase for certain categories of workers.

Labour is demanding 29 per cent salary increase for officers on salary level 07 to 14 and 24 per cent adjustment for officers on salary grade level 15 to 17 .

But the federal government had presented a proposal of 11 per cent salary increase for officers on grade level 07 to14 and 6.5 per cent adjustment for workers of grade level 15 to 17.

There is no disagreement over the minimum wage to federal workers on grade 1-6 as that is already being implemented

Consequential adjustment

Reacting to the minimum wage controversy, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, last week said the labour unions are wrong in seeing the consequential adjustment in salary as total salary review.

He said the federal government had set up a committee that would prepare the ground for a total salary review in 2020.

Read also: VAT increased to 7.5%, not 7.2% – Minister

“It is an adjustment you do consequentially to move the last man on the rung of the ladder to N30,000. By doing so, you impede on other salary grade levels and, therefore, you must consequentially move them up,” he said.

“Consequential movement does not mean that you do a percentage of the former minimum wage to the present one which is 67 per cent. We have agreed on that but the issue is that they (labour) have mistakenly bounded the two together. The issue of consequential movement and the issue of total wage review.”

Also, the Director-General of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Timothy Olawale, on Thursday said if labour unions and government fail to reach an agreement over the new minimum wage, the best option for labour unions is to approach the National Industrial Court instead of embarking on a strike.

Minimum wage

President Buhari signed a new minimum wage bill into law in April 2019. But its implementation has been stalled over disagreements between the unions and government representatives.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the implementation of the new wage has remained a problem, arising from the issue of relativity and consequential adjustments.

On May 14, the federal government inaugurated the relativity and consequential adjustment committee, which set up a technical subcommittee to work out a template for the adjustment of salaries of public service employees.

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