The agitation by civil servants for an increment of the current minimum wage by N1000 is not worth an industrial action, President Goodluck Jonathan said yesterday during an interview with airport reporters.
Mr. Jonathan, who with reporters for the first time at the presidential wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos said his administration has been friendly with the labour and that government is working hard to resolving the ongoing disagreement.
“I believe labour will stay with us and we are also pleading with them that they should reason with us. On the issue of the wage, you know the federal government presently pays 17000 and within this period, we raised it from 7500 to 17000. Now they are talking about the minimum wage of 18000, you will agree with me that that 1000 difference for good people that has been friendly will not lead to any industrial action,” he said.
“If you become very strict on the issue of minimum wage as applied elsewhere in this country, I find it very difficult to believe that presently any federal government staff is even earning less than 18000, because the minimum wage of 18000 is level one step one, which is supposed to be for primary six holders and most of the federal government staff are either level three or level four and above, but if they are few that are not quit to 18000, it may be very, very insignificant.”
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has threatened to embark on a three-day warning industrial action starting from November 10, demanding an increment on their minimum wage.
The president disclosed that due process has to be followed before the wage increase can be implemented, adding that the increase will not only affect the arms of government, but also the private sector.
“If it was salary increase I don’t think we will be discussing this matter, but this is minimum wage; because it is minimum wage it has to pass through all the sections of government as specified by law. It must go to the national assembly because the law must be made and the minimum wage does not affect only government employees and that is what Nigerians should know. Assuming federal government, states and local government can pay, what of the private people who employ? Every employer of labour is affected, so if we now just go and impose a minimum wage on all Nigerians without due consultation, do you think small and medium scale enterprises can all meet up?” he asked.
Mr. Jonathan disclosed that meticulous consultations has to be done before the law for the increase in minimum wage is passed and signed, stressing that the government wants to carry all parties along in the process.
“That is why you need to consult wisely. I believe most of you here do employ some people; so if the minimum wage is 18000, you will be paying whoever you employ 18000, be him a gardener or something. So the implication is what to consider and not just increase. Presently our minimum wage is 17000 and no federal government staff is even receiving that.
“One thing again that labour should understand is that we met at the council of states to discuss the issue of minimum wage, but the provision is that council of states will advice government then I will now send the minutes to the national assembly. During that process we said that we need to look at it again and also reason with labour especially as it affects the private sector and other smaller employees and this is to tell you that government takes labour matters seriously.
“We agreed that we are meeting again in three weeks time. This is council that meets once or at most two times a year. They, labour know that government is passionate about them and I believe they will not over demonstrate this minor difference for nobody is saying they will not be paid but let the consultations be done properly that government will not be blame if there are some lapses along the line.”