Ahead of the resumed negotiation between the Federal Government and Labour leaders today October 16, the Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige has stated that the Nigerian government can’t meet the minimum wage demand.
Reacting to the disagreement that ensued with Labour leaders on the percentage of increment for senior workers after the Federal Government started paying workers on Grade Levels 1 to 6 the N30,000 minimum wage, the Minister said the Nigerian economy will grind to a halt like that of Venezuela if it gives in to the labour union demands.
Ngige further disclosed that there will be no money to build roads, airports, rails, health centres and schools if FG gives in to the labour union demands as payment of salaries to 1.4 million workers in federal public service will take 33 per cent of the 2020 budget.
Urging labour leaders to accept the Federal Government’s proposal, the Labour Minister added that he will not sit back and watch them intimidate Nigerian leaders.
“We cannot allow government to shut down the economy because it wants to pay salaries and wages. The 2020 Budget of N10.3 trillion has N3.8 trillion as personnel cost without overhead. If you add running cost and other incidental costs, the total recurrent budget as presented to the National Assembly has taken 76 per cent. Where do we get the money to build roads, airport, rails, health centres, schools etc.
“It is a matter of balancing a budget that is 76 per cent recurrent and 24 per cent capital, for me, it is nothing to cheer about. In the 76 per cent, government has captured N200 billion for consequential adjustment for the minimum wage and so on. These are all part of personnel. N160 billion is for consequential adjustment of the minimum wage and not total package of workers’ salaries. Everybody has to make sacrifice. We must plug leakages.
“The ghost workers should go and we should know who the real workers are. As of today, we have 1.3 million persons in the federal civil service and maybe it will be more by the time we finish bringing everybody into the IPPS.
“The number of workers, 1.4 million or 1.5 million out of 200 million people take 33 per cent of the budget which has deficit. It is important we know this. It is up to us to use all the money to pay salaries and the economy will grind to a halt and be like Venezuela” Ngige said while receiving members of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) led by its National President, Ibrahim Khaleel.
“We must give government benefit of the doubt. I am for labour and I will not sit and watch the being cheated. I will also not seat and watch labour intimidate government. If you dangle strike, it is intimidation and ILO Convention does not permit it.
“People should negotiate freely. If government threatens you in the course of negotiation, it is intimidation.
“I am your friend and friend of government. In fact, government feels I am not doing enough. That is why I am talking to you so that you can talk to your people,” he added.