By Joan Nwagwu
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige has said that the new national minimum wage may not materialise in September as earlier envisaged.
Ngige, who disclosed this to newsmen on Tuesday at his residence in Abuja, said that the September date was just a date to conclude negotiation on the issue of minimum wage.
“The committee on the new National Minimum wage is expected to conclude its work by the end of September and present its report to the government for deliberation and approval before an executive bill is sent to the National Assembly on the issue”.
The minister, however, said that the issue of capacity to pay was also paramount in the deliberations on the minimum wage.
According to him, it is to get the input of all those concerned including state governments and the organised private sector that the committee embarked on zonal public hearing across the country.
The minister said further that in the course of the zonal public hearings, many state governments made different submissions ranging from N22,000 monthly to N58,000.
He added that the governors were also of the believe that for the new minimum wage to become effective, the current revenue allocation formula would have to be reviewed in favour of the states and local government.
He said that some other states were also of the view that the minimum wage should be maintained at the current N18,000 in view of the inability of some states to pay the current wages.
According to Ngige, when the minimum wage committee concludes its report, it will be submitted to the National Council of State and the Federal Executive Council for approval before a bill is sent to the National Assembly to legalise the work of the committee.
He said even though it was not an easy task, the committee was making progress in its assigned responsibility.
He pointed out that six governors were elected to be members of the committee as well as representatives of the private organised sector in an effort to carry everybody.
On the threat of non teaching staff of universities to resume their suspended strike as a result of government failure to honour the terms of their agreement, the Minister said the government was sourcing for the N6 billion needed to pay them their earned allowances as contained in the agreement.
He said with his experience as Minister of Labour, majority or about 95 per cent of agreements currently being paraded by trade unions in the country were signed before the Buhari government came into office in 2015.
Based on this, he noted that most of such agreements had no timeline for implementation.
He also said many of the agreement signed by the past governments were not implementable because of the amount involved.
He added that the principles of the International Labour Organisation allowed employers to renegotiate agreements, when they feel they cannot implement.
“What is important in all collective bargaining agreement is the ability to pay what is being demanded and what is agreed upon.
He appealed to striking health workers to return to work while negotiations continue on their demands.
According to the minister, the delay in the implementation of their signed agreement was as a result of failure of the National Salaries, Wages and Income Commission to defend the two different figure presented to a government high powered committee.