Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday night met behind closed doors with the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige and President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Quadri Olaleye at the State House, Abuja.
The organized labour had on Wednesday given the Federal Government one week ultimatum to conclude consequential adjustment on minimum wage.
Olaleye said he urged Osinbajo to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently address the matter.
On his purpose to the Villa, he said “To rub mind with him on some burning issues in the country, and we also used that opportunity to proffer suggestions on how to resolve the issues.
“You are aware that the first burning issue in the country is the issue of the minimum wage; we told the vice president the need to take quick action on the issue of the minimum wage;
“We have given an ultimatum already to the Federal Government and you know labour will not joke with that.
“So, we have encouraged him to also encourage the President to do something very urgent before the expiration of that ultimatum given to the government.
“We also mentioned the issue of job creation; that mostly it is not the responsibility of government to create jobs; that it is the private sector, individuals that can create jobs; so, we have encouraged the vice president that they should look at the retirees as a means of creating jobs; we have suggested the way to do that and we will submit paper.”
On insecurity, he said “We also mentioned the issue of insecurity; we have mentioned the quantum of money spent so far on insecurity in the country; we have advised that money should be used to revive the companies that have been closed down in this country especially the textiles and the money can also be used to create other companies that will create jobs instead of continuously spending this money on insecurity when we are not achieving much.”
He said he could not say if the Vice president’s response was positive or negative.
“We cannot say if the vice president’s reaction was positive or negative; you know as the representative of the president, he will try to mediate with the unions to show understanding with the government.
“I am telling you that we will go further with the government to discuss with the government on better ways to achieve this,” he stated
Ngige, again insisted that N580 billion is needed to meet the consequential adjustment to the minimum wage.
He said “We are not talking about the implementation of minimum wage per se; what we are talking about is the consequential movements as a result of the minimum wage for the least paid worker.
“The minimum wage for the least paid worker today is N30,000; for the last man in the lowest rung of the ladder. So, if we do consequential adjustments and go up and do a 30 percent rise across board on a sliding scale or do even the 25 percent which labour is asking the government to do, the government will need to go and look for an extra N580 billion to effect that; and that government doesn’t have.
“And one of the cardinal principles of consequential adjustment negotiations which we call in labour parlance, Collective Bargaining Agreement, is the ability to do; the wherewithal to pay; the capacity to pay.
“The maxim of cutting your coat according to your clothes comes in place there and the government has done the consequential movement budget in 2019 budget which is what the government can pay in order to maintain the balance in the recurrent expenditure, otherwise, we will overshoot.”
He said that meeting the labour demand will reduce capital expenditure in the budget to 15%.
“You know that this government said that we will do 70-30 mix; 70 for recurrent expenditure, 30 percent only for capital expenditure; today with what labour is asking us to pay; if we pay that, it will translate to 15 percent capital expenditure and 85 percent recurrent and that doesn’t augur well with the country.
“It means we will abandon road construction; it means we will abandon the refurbishment of airports, the rail that we are doing and even the schools that we are managing, the hospitals, everything will have to be abandoned and we will use everything to pay salaries and wages.
“Labour cannot go on strike; they are Nigerians; we will open up negotiations next week and we will lay our books open for them to see. It is government’s books; they will see it; it is part of negotiations,” he stated