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Labour Suspends Planned Strike as Talks Continue Today

Organised labour on Tuesday demanded documents from the Federal Government to support its claims during a negotiation on the consequential adjustments on the New National Minimum Wage.

Labour suspended its planned strike as both sides agreed to continue negotiations today (Wednesday).
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, at the opening of the meeting, said the demand of the workers before the negotiation would shut down the economy.

But a source at the five hours meeting, which started at 2.45pm, confided in our correspondent that the labour leaders and the government’s representatives made concessions. He added that they failed to reach a definite agreement on the salary adjustments.

Before the meeting, labour was demanding 29 per cent salary increase for officers at salary grade levels 07 to 14 and 24 per cent adjustment for officers at salary grade levels 15 to 17, while the Federal Government proposed an 11 per cent increase for officers at grade level 07 to 14 and 6.5 per cent adjustment for workers at grade level 15 to 17.

The meeting broke into sessions on a few occasions when labour and government teams had to leave the general session to meet their teams separately before continuing with the joint session.

Our correspondent learnt that the labour team demanded a number of documents from government’s team to verify claims made by the Federal Government during the negotiation.

According to a source, who was part of the workers’ team at the meeting, labour lowered its position to 20 and 25 per cent, while government increased its offer to 17 per cent for workers at grade levels 07 to 09, 15 per cent for those at grade levels 10 to 14 and 12 per cent for workers at grade level 15 to 17.

The source said, “The two sides made concessions but in addition to the Federal Government concession, the team also introduced innovations which is strange to us. But we have asked for documents to back that position. However, whatever figures presented now at the meeting are mere proposals that labour is going home to examine critically before tomorrow’s (today) meeting.”

It was also learnt that the minister pleaded with the union leaders to consider the present state of the nation’s economy in their demands.
He said after the meeting that he was happy that there was no walkout or fight during the deliberation.

Briefing journalists, Ngige said, “I serve as the conciliator so I am not on any side. I belong to the two parties. As you can see, there was no fight and no walkout. That shows that things are going on well. We will continue tomorrow (Wednesday) because of areas that we could not touch.”

Addressing the media, the Nigeria Labour Congress Deputy President, Amaechi Asugwuni said, “For us at labour, the matters are straightforward but negotiations are still going on. We thought the meeting would be concluded today but that prediction was not successful. Therefore, adjournment became necessary. The struggle will still continue.

“We will meet again tomorrow (Wednesday) and that meeting will decide the fate of both parties. So far, commitments have been shown by both parties but we believe that the areas that are still in contest are critical and we urge government to see how it can shift ground positively. We expect that Wednesday’s meeting will end positively.”

The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan, who spoke for the government team added, “We have worked together and both sides have made a lot of concessions but we discovered that there are areas to be ironed out. There are some documents and information that are being sought and which we are providing. We will continue tomorrow with the belief that we will reach an agreement.

But earlier on Tuesday, the Federal Government said the economy would be shut down, if it met the demands of the organised labour on the New National Minimum Wage.

Ngige, who stated this during the Federal Government’s meeting with labour leaders in Abuja, said the unionists should not misinform workers about the government’s position on the consequential increase in workers’ salaries as a result of the new minimum wage of N30,000.

The labour leaders had at a meeting with the minister on Monday submitted their proposal on percentages on consequential increases in the new minimum wage.

Ngige, in his opening speech before the technical session that government had with labour on Tuesday, said government would not intimidate workers.

The minister said the Federal Government’s personnel cost had increased astronomically and that accommodating more wage bill like what labour was demanding could shut the economy down.

Ngige stated, “It is a matter of balancing a budget that is 76 per cent recurrent and 24 per cent capital. For me, it is nothing to cheer about. In the 76 per cent, government has captured N200bn for the consequential adjustment for the minimum wage and so on. These are all parts of personnel.




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