The Federal Government says it will adjust workers’ salaries to meet the current realities in the economy of the country.
Sen. Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment said this at the public presentation of the NLC of 40 publication titled, “Contemporary History of Working-Class Struggles” on Monday in Abuja.
Ngige said that the Federal Government was very much aware that the N30,000 National Minimum Wage had depreciated.
“Yes, the inflation has increased worldwide, and it is not confined to Nigeria, that is why in many jurisdiction, it is an adjustment of wages right now.
“We as the Nigerian government, we shall adjust in confirmative with what is happening in wages.
“More importantly, the 2019 National Minimum Wage Act, right now has a clause for the review, which we started then, I do not know whether it is due next year or 2024.
“But before then, the adjustment of wages will reflect what is happening in the economy, just as government has started the adjustment with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU),” he said.
The minister also explained that the Federal Government did not take ASUU to court over the prolonged strike of the union as some people claimed.
Ngige said he would have failed in his duties if he did not refer the matter to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) after seven months of protracted discussions and negotiations with the union, which failed.
He recalled that ASUU was at the stage of Collective Bargaining (CBA) negotiation with their employers, the Federal Ministry of Education when they embarked on strike.
He regretted that the ASUU leadership did not even understand the import of CBA negotiation because they lacked the nutrients of labour unionism.
According to him, we have to counsel our brothers on negotiation. No negotiation is forced. You cannot say it is either you give me 200 per cent or I will continue my strike.
“There are laws guiding strike. There are ILO principles on right to strike. Nobody can take it away.
“But, there are things that follow it when you embark on strike as a worker and they are enshrined in the laws of our land.
“It is written in Trade Dispute Act. The ILO principles of strike talks about the right of a worker to withdraw services. There is also right to picket. These are things that are done.
“Nigeria is respected in ILO. Some people said Federal Government took ASUU to court. No. I referred the matter after seven months of protracted discussions and negotiations that failed,” he said.
Ngige recalled that he conciliated the dispute twice, first on Feb. 22, one week after the commencement of the strike and some agreements were reached, and he brought everybody back on March 1 for another conciliation.
He added that the only thing left was going back to the Federal Ministry of Education for the renegotiation of the 2013 agreement.
“Some people are saying 2009 agreement. The 2009 agreement has been renegotiated in 2013/2014 with the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. It is an anathema to use 2009 agreement.
“What is left is the renegotiation of their conditions of service, which is their right. It should be done but they are negotiating it under the principle of offer and acceptance, and it broke down irretrievably there at the Federal Ministry of Education.
“That kick-started Section 17 of the Trade Dispute Act whereby the Minister of Labour and Employment, whoever it is, if you don’t transmit according to the dictates of Section 17, TDA, 2004, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
“This means you would have failed in your function. Therefore, I had to transmit,” he said.
Ngige, however, said the transmission did not mean that the matter could not be settled out of court.
He said either of the parties involved; the Federal Ministry of Education and ASUU could approach the NICN for out of court settlement.
He maintained that Nigeria must be guided by laws, and nobody should use the dispute to harass anybody.
“The pro-chancellors said they want to do counter offer. I told them to do it as quickly as possible. Those are ingredients of labour relations.
“It is not enough if you misinform your membership. That should be a disservice. We should read through things as it is and interpret same way. If I leave them in education, they will stay there two years,” Ngige said.
On the 40 years of NLC, Ngige said: “A fool at 40 is a fool forever. A wiseman at 40 is a wise man forever. NLC is a wise man forever.”