The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has said that the junior public service workers employed by the Federal Government have started receiving the N30,000 minimum wage.
Concise News learned that Ngige disclosed this while speaking over the weekend in Enugu where he said that the payment to levels 1 to 6 commenced in August.
The Minister’s claim was corroborated by the National President of the Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU) and a member of the Joint Public Service Negotiating Council Lawrence Amaechi.
Ngige noted that the only issue at stake was the executive cadre of Grades level 7 to 17, which required a consequential adjustment that was still being negotiated.
The minister said, “Labour knows that inconsequential adjustments and even in collective bargaining, there are cardinal principles guiding CBA and part of the principles guiding CBA is the ability of employers to pay, because there is no need for employer going to agree on something he cannot pay and tomorrow, you are back to the negotiating table. So, that is what is there.
“Unfortunately for government, after the agreement was signed into law by the President on April 18, by May 29, the cabinet was dissolved. So, the committee of government, government side negotiation was cancelled.
“The members were the Ministers of Finance, Budget & National Planning; Labour, Head of Service of the Federation and the Secretary to Federal Government (SGF).
“Everybody, except the Head of Service, was dissolved by implications. So, permanent secretaries by implications moved in to fill the gaps. And they were the people who started negotiating with the Joint Negotiating Council of Labour, because we have what is called Joint Negotiating Council (JNC), that is a public service council.
“This is because what we are now talking about are workers in the public service, not workers in the private sector. The private sector workers are supposed to do their own negotiation with their employers. But, negotiation with government workers, because public service is government, is what is now going on and which is stalemated.
“I have told you that we exited as ministers and so, the former committee did not have the original colour as it should be. Now that the cabinet has been formed, and even with the exit of Head of Service, that government committee will be reconstituted and plans are on for it to be reconstituted next week so that we can then engage JNC, Joint Negotiation Council of labour.
“We are not negotiating with the labour union executive simplicity because this does not concern every worker. It is workers in the public service, what you call the public sector. So, there is a difference and that difference is what I want the public to know. This is one.
“The second leg is that, between Grade Level 1 Step 1 to Grade Level 6, there is a partial agreement already and the consequential adjustment has been worked out and the Federal Government has paid the August salary based on the minimum wage. August salary has been paid. That is the report the accountant-general gave us in a meeting.
“So, categorically, the government has started partial implementation of the new minimum wage.
“They have started applying the minimum wage payment. So, they have paid in August. They are going to pay in September with arrears spanning from April 18 to workers in this band that I have told you. And as for workers from Grade Level 7 to 17, that their negotiation with the committee of permanent secretaries, representing us, has hit the rocks, we, as the government is going to reconstitute the committee and engage them.
“So, they should not be issuing threat of strike because they know that government has not settled down. They know it. They have not seen my face in any of their negotiation because I have not gotten any briefing from those who were in the committee before us.
“They have to do us a handover of where they stopped in the negotiation. That is how government functions and then, we take it from there. They have not done a formal handover. We are going to reconstitute a committee next week and the old committee will do a handover.
“I can assure you that we’ll speedily negotiate with labour and the JNC. So, it is not good for them to say the government is dragging their feet. They know the problem. They know the government has not settled down. So, that is the situation.”
On his part, Amaechi added that “They have gone to commence the payment. They told us that they have started the payment and we have confirmed from our members that they were paid in August and have promised to pay the arrears in September.
“But negotiations have stalled for now and during our last meeting, we said that we were going to report to our principals, which we have done. We are waiting for directives from our members on what to do.
“But, we have started mobilising against them and hope that they will see reason and improve on what they are offering. The meeting had adjourned and there is no date yet for the next meeting.”