It is regrettable that the last meeting of the Joint National Public Service Negotiation Council (JNPSNC) over the resolution of the new minimum wage problem, ended in a stalemate in Abuja.

Due to the inability of labour and government to reach an accord, the Trade Union Side (TUS) of the JNPSNC has alerted the nation not to expect any further warning before the workers at the federal and state levels embark on an indefinite strike. Any industrial action by workers at this period of serious economic challenges will not bode well for the country.

The country cannot afford a shutdown should Nigerian workers embark on another nationwide strike. We call on all the parties concerned, therefore, to ponder over the issue, remember that we must have a country first, before anyone can look forward to any entitlements. The prospect of a nationwide strike, at this point in time, is scary.

We appreciate the concerns of Nigerian workers over the issue of the new minimum wage. It is true that the minimum wage has been due for a renegotiation since 2015, and when the government finally agreed to enter into the negotiation, the matter has been dragging slowly. Now that all the parties have reached an agreement on the new national minimum wage, the consequential matters should not be allowed to derail it. Therefore, we urge the Federal and state governments to muster the political will to ensure the seamless implementation of the new wage without any further delay.

It is unfortunate that what is apparently stalling the implementation of new minimum wage is the inability of the government and the labour unions to agree on the “adequate consequential adjustment” of the salary scale. There is no doubt that every worker from level 1 to 17 will benefit from the new minimum wage. While all the parties to the dispute are agreed on a 100 per cent benefit for workers on Salary Levels 1- 6, the bone of contention now is on what workers on Levels 7-14 and Levels 15-17 should get.

While the government’s side of the JNPSNC has shifted from its initial proposal of 10 per cent increase for Levels 7-14 and 5.5 per cent for Levels 15-17 to 11 per cent and 6.5 per cent respectively, the TUS of the JNPSNC is insisting on 29 per cent for Levels 7-14 and 24 per cent for Levels 15-17.

It must be noted that the organised labour represented by the National Employers Consultative Association (NECA) has maintained a conciliatory position by insisting that no positive result can be achieved if the other two parties in the tripartite agreement do not teach a compromise. Meanwhile, NECA members are already paying the new N30, 000 minimum wage to their employees.

We, therefore, appeal to the government and the labour unions to wrap up this matter once and for all. It is not good that this matter has been allowed to drag for so long. We believe that the government should make more concessions to labour. We say this because the government can actually pay the new minimum wage if it maintains fiscal discipline.

On the other hand, the TUS must be willing to make some concessions, too. As the matter stands now, the best thing the government and labour should do is to resolve it amicably and save the nation another avoidable industrial action.

Government should not wait for labour to embark on another strike before resolving the issue. It is not good that five months after the new minimum wage bill was signed into law, the government is still foot-dragging on its implementation.

Source: The Citizen

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