The meeting, yesterday in Abuja, between the Federal Government and organised labour, aimed at averting a nationwide strike next Tuesday, has ended without agreement on the key issue of when to transmit the new minimum wage bill to the National Assembly.
The meeting was, therefore, adjourned till Monday to allow for more consultations on both sides.
But while the talks were on, organised labour commenced the mobilisation of its members ahead of the January 8 nationwide strike over payment of the agreed N30,000 new minimum wage.
Addressing journalists at about 7.50 pm when the meeting ended, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige said that issues were not conclusively dealt with.
He said that although significant progress was made in getting labour to understand the position of the government, there was need for another round of talks on Monday in order to agree on the date for transmitting the minimum wage bill to the legislature.
Ngige said: “No, the meeting is not deadlocked, we are continuing on Monday. We have made substantial progress in our talks with labour in terms of the transmission of the new national minimum wage bill to the National Assembly.”
Ngige explained that part of the issues the meeting considered was that the National Assembly was on recess and the fact that the minimum wage bill Act, 2019 would be a new bill which needed to be properly framed.
Ngige said the reason for the apparent delay in transmitting the minimum wage bill was because the federal government was still going through the report of the tripartite committee and trying to sieve it.
“Government has been working on the tripartite committee’s report. The report is being milled in order to get it ready for transmission to the National Assembly,” he said.
He said the purpose of Monday’s meeting would be to sort out the issue of the date for the transmission of the minimum wage bill to the legislature.
The minister assured that the issue of the new minimum wage would be concluded before the end of the tenure of this administration, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari was committed to seeing that happen.
But the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, contradicted Ngige, saying that the meeting was inconclusive as there were still some physical issues that needed to be concluded.
Wabba said: “We have had a social dialogue bothering on the national minimum wage as you are aware and the meeting decided to adjourn and reconvene on Monday for us to do further consultations before the issues are concluded. We have discussed all the issues and all the areas, particularly how we can ensure that the issue is put behind us. That was why we took such a long time, including having a time out to consult. But, we have not been able to conclude and we have agreed to reconvene to tidy up the process.”
Wabba said the issue at stake was to make sure that the minimum wage bill was transmitted, along with other auxiliary issues that the government said they are trying to put together.
“We also want to see how the money gets into the pocket of our workers because a lot of economic factors have affected the current wage. But the major issue is that we have been able to have a meaningful social dialogue. But the process is not conclusive and we will reconvene on Monday.
“Monday is not too far from now since today is Friday (yesterday) and so, I expect you to be available to get the conclusion by Monday,” he said.
On whether the organised labour would proceed with the planned protest on Tuesday, the NLC President said everything would depend on the outcome of Monday’s meeting.
Earlier, the two sides began discussion at about 12.30 pm but broke-off their talks two hours later.
When asked why they had to break-off the meeting, Ngige said they decided to have a break to reconvene later by 4.30pm.
Also Wabba, who spoke to newsmen on his way out of the conference hall of the ministry, said both sides had decided to go for consultations and would be back in the evening.
However, it was gathered that mid-way through the meeting, the federal government team, led by Ngige and the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Udoma Udo-Udoma, was summoned to the Presidential Villa for consultations.
Immediately both Ngige and Udoma left for the Presidential Villa, Wabba and his TUC counterpart, Bobboi Kaigama, also left to hold consultations with union leaders.
The most critical issue that was discussed at the meeting was the threat by labour to shut down the country’s public sector beginning next Tuesday over the delay in transmitting the N30,000 minimum wage to the National Assembly.
Ngige said the federal government was seriously worried about the proposed protest by workers, hence the efforts to secure a truce with NLC, TUC and their affiliate unions.
Meanwhile, the News Agency of Nigeria reports that during their visit to some of the labour unions in Lagos, they gathered that workers had been informed of the strategic roles to play while awaiting further instructions on the strike planned for Tuesday.