It has been disclosed that the Federal Government might be compelled to sack workers in order to pay the new minimum wage.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, on Thursday, stated that the demand for labor over the implementation of the new minimum wage would cost the Federal Government N580 billion annually.
According to TheNation, Ngige said that such adjustment, in line with labor’s demand, was not sustainable as the government would have to retrench some workers to be able to meet their demands.
The minister said the government cannot afford that kind of money now, adding that the focus of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is on workers on Grade Level 1, Step 1 and Level 6, Step 1 where the impact of the wage would be felt by workers.
The Minister made these known on Thursday in Abuja when the leadership of the United Labour Congress (ULC) led by its President, Mr. Joe Ajeiro, paid him a visit at the ministry.
While calling on workers to show more understanding to the plight of the Federal Government, Ngige said the current economic realities, may make the new wage bill not practicable.
He revealed that the government was refraining from a situation in which it would have to sack workers, adding that this would worsen the living conditions of the citizenry.
Ngige urged the labor to accept the consequential adjustment from levels 7 to 17, adding that the federal government had only three months left to implement the new minimum wage.
He said the government would not tell the labor what it could not pay, saying that no worker deserved to be owed salary.
The minister said: “There is no problem with disagreement in the labour system, when can sometimes disagree to later agree, on the national minimum wage, it will translate to an additional N580billion if government agrees to the consequential adjustment labour is proposing.
“Government cannot afford that kind of money now, besides the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is more interested in the lowest cadre of workers which are those on grade level 1 step 1 and level 6 step 1, these are the ones who the N30,000 will have greater impact on.
“Government has done their own homework and brought out what they can use to defend this consequential adjustment. Grade 1 to 6 does not have any problem, but 7 to 14 band and 15 to 17 band this is where we have the problem.
“Once you finish a minimum wage and go into consequential adjustment you are trying to reach a collective bargaining agreement and once you are trying to reach and once you are the principle of ability to pay comes in.
“So if you push government to go and accede to an increment which its resources cannot accommodate, you are indirectly asking them to retrench workers so that the few that are remaining will get this big big money.
“We don’t want that, from 2015 the president has made it clear that he is not out to inflict pains on Nigerians and that he does not want to create unemployment. But even at that, our increase in population is galloping and our resources are not consequentially increasing to meet up that is why we have a lot of unemployed youths on the street today.
“We need to arrive at an agreement as soon as possible so that we can use the 2019 budget allocation to de-frame this consequential adjustment. This is because it will be bad if we are unable to do it and we finish this financial year by December. The budget circle is going to return to January/December 2020 so we have three months only before this recurrent funds are swept back into government treasury. That is the law.”
He expressed concern over the inability of the joint negotiating team of both the government and labour to agree on the consequential adjustments, insisting that the new wage may become bloated by workers on grade levels 7-14 and 15-17.
Already organised labour has started mobilising their members to embark on strike on the 16th of this month.
Ajaero, in his remarks, appealed to the minister for prompt payment of the new minimum wage, emphasizing that the private sector must also be forced to pay the N30,000 wage.
He said that there was the need to review obsolete laws that were not in tandem with present reality. Adding to that, he said a situation where some private sectors paid their employees N10,000 and N15,000 cannot be condoned.