We’ll lay off workers to meet your demand – FG
The president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr. Quadri Olaleye, has said that the organised labour is still open to dialogue with the federal government but that labour would not back down on its demand for consequential adjustment of salaries of workers on grade levels seven to 14.
Olaleye made the declaration on a phone-in radio programme aired in Lagos on Friday
The labour leader said emphatically that even if the government invited labour to any other meeting in order to avert strike, the labour would not go back on its demand on the national minimum wage.
“We are open to dialogue. If the government wants to hold another meeting with us, we are available. The only thing I would say is that we will have nothing short of the consequential adjustment of salaries of workers between grades 7 and 14.
“I don’t see any reason for another presidential committee after the first one,” he said.
It would be recalled that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had at a meeting held with the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC)-Trade Union Side) in Abuja on Wednesday, October 2, issued a two-week ultimatum to the federal to conclude negotiations on consequential adjustment of salaries of workers between grades 7 and 14 or it (labour) would call for a nationwide industrial action beginning from October 16.
In a statement jointly signed by the NLC president, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, TUC president, Mr. Quadri Olaleye and acting chairman of JNPSNC (trade union side), Mr. Simon Anchaver, they said the unions had all along demonstrated restraint and patience with the federal government.
They noted that labour had to moderate its initial position of having 66.6 per cent upward salary adjustment for workers on salary grade levels 07 to 17 by accepting downward adjustment of 29 per cent for officers on salary levels 07-14 and 24 per cent adjustment for officers on salary grade levels 15-17.
“Despite this patriotic gesture, government has kept insisting that it can only pay 11 per cent for officers on grade levels 07-14 and 6.5 per cent consequential wage increase to public workers for officers on levels 15-17,” said the unionists.
They threatened that “We may not guarantee industrial peace and harmony in the country if our demands are not met at the close of work on Wednesday, 16 October.”
Following the threat, the minister of labour and employment, Dr. Chris Ngige said yesterday that the federal government would have to lay off workers to be able to meet a wage bill of N580 billion needed to meet labour’s demand on the new wage.
He said in Abuja that the sum was what would be needed by government to pay the consequential adjustments as demanded by labour.
Ngige who was speaking when the leadership of the United Labour Congress (ULC), paid him a courtesy visit in his office said federal government was avoiding a situation in which it would have to lay off workers.
He therefore pleaded with labour to accept the consequential adjustment from levels 7 to 17, adding that government had only three months left to implement the new wage.
He also said the government would not promise labour what it could not pay, stressing that no worker deserves to be owed salary.
The minister disclosed that the federal government had so far paid arrears of N500 billion to workers, including the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
In addition, he said implementation of the new wage had since commenced for workers on grade level 1 to 6, adding that the development had helped those on the lower cadre in the civil service to move up.