By David Olalekan.
Organised labour has expressed apprehension over the failure of the Federal Government to kick off negotiation with its leaders and the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council over salary adjustments and reviews, occasioned by the new national minimum wage after two weeks of inaugurating a committee.
A committee headed by former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, along with ministers of ministries relevant to the negotiation, had been set up by the Federal Government on May 14, 2019 to negotiate the consequential adjustment.
According to the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, the committee was scheduled to work for four weeks with the inaugural meeting slated for May 20, 2019. But to the dismay of the labour leaders, the meeting is yet to hold as all the ministers that were appointed as committee members have left office.
The Secretary of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, Alade Lawal, in a statement to the press, stressed that it was not necessary to tarry negotiations until new ministers are appointed, emphasizing that permanent secretaries in the ministries involved were competent enough to negotiate on behalf of the government.
Lawal added that consequent upon the delay, the financial burden would accumulate beyond what the government would be willing to pay, and according to him, such situation will lead to government’s resolve to cut down on the wage bill which isn’t right.
He said, “The SGF gave us four weeks to work and we have spent about two weeks without doing anything. Our fear now is that the government is deliberately dragging the issue.
“The excuse was that everybody was busy with the inauguration ceremony of President Muhammadu Buhari and others and that there are no more ministers to negotiate with us. But it does not necessarily mean that it is the ministers that should come for the meeting. The ministries have competent permanent secretaries that can represent them.
“We have given them the task of calling a meeting next week. If the President fails to appoint ministers immediately or anytime soon, does it mean the negotiation is stalled? That is why competent officers should be empowered to fill the positions of the ministers for now.
“We held over 20 tripartite committee meetings on the minimum wage, the Minister of Finance and that of budget and planning ministry were mostly represented. Jointly, they did not attend more than five meetings and despite that, we were able to achieve something because they sent representatives.
“By the time we eventually sit and reach an agreement, the arrears could frighten the government. On the strength of that, the government could start a review of our agreement in order to reduce it to a figure it can manage. That is the implication of this delay and it is not right. We are urging the government to call a meeting immediately.
“We are experiencing unnecessary delay in the negotiation and workers are becoming apprehensive. They are beginning to think that they are being taken for a ride. The position of trade union is that the issue of handover or inauguration must not stop the negotiation”, he insisted.