Who blinks first? This is the question on the lips of many observers as the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Nigerian government brace for a nationwide industrial strike on October 16. The face-off is over the unresolved consequential adjustments in salary arising from the new National Minimum Wage.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in a letter to its state councils had said it was not ready to shift ground on its demand for the consequential adjustment in salaries.
The congress has since ordered its state councils to prepare their minds on industrial action starting from October 16, 2019.
But in what looked like a fierce response to Labour’s plan, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi, said any attempt by labour to embark on strike would be an exercise in futility.
Ripples Nigeria had reported that the Federal Government negotiating team and the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC) will meet again on Tuesday after which the first phase of the negotiation collapse.
Labour is demanding 29 per cent salary increase for officers on salary grade level 07 to 14 and 24 per cent adjustment for officers on salary grade level 15 to 17. However, the government had presented a proposal of 11 per cent salary increase for officers on grade level 07 to 14 and 6.5 per cent adjustment for workers on grade level 15 to 17.
Labour had recently warned that would not guarantee industrial peace if the Federal Government failed to hold a meeting with it and accept its demand on the consequential salary adjustment before the close of work October 16.
The warning prompted the Federal Government to call a meeting of all stakeholders last Wednesday with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, presiding. At the meeting, all the parties agreed to meet again on October 15 in Abuja.
However, speaking with newsmen in Lagos on Sunday, the Ekiti State governor, who is also the NGF’s Chairman, said the strike proposed by labour would be in futility.
Fayemi implored the workers to consider the country’s economy before embarking on the industrial action.
He said, “We don’t workers to down tools, but we made it clear during the tripartite negotiation that an increase in the National Minimum Wage is not tantamount to a general wage review.
“The fact that we moved people, who were below N30,000 to N30,000 and wherever they should be on the scale, should not automatically mean that we must increase the salaries of people on Level 17, who are on N400,000. It is a minimum wage law; it is not a general wage law.
“Yes, if you promote levels 05 or 06, they may go over what the current level 07 is earning. So, that calls for a consequential adjustment, but that adjustment should not go over levels 08 and 09. The Federal Government has even agreed to do nine per cent for levels 07 to 12 and five per cent for levels 13 and above, but they said no and insisted on 45 per cent.
“Where is Nigeria going to find the money? I mean the economy is in doldrums. Whether we openly admit or not, everyone knows. If you have an economy that earmarks N2.4tn for debt servicing; then what are we talking about? So, I hope good sense will prevail and that people will be able to convince labour that it is a futile effort if they do so because Nigeria cannot pay what it doesn’t have.”