The minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has said the demand of labour over the implementation of the new minimum wage would cost the Federal Government N580 billion annually.
Ngige, disclosed these on Thursday in Abuja when the leadership of United Labour Congress (ULC) led by its President, Mr Joe Ajeero, paid him a courtesy visit.
He said labour’s demands was not sustainable as the government would have to lay off some workers to be able to meet the demands.
The minister said government cannot afford to pay the workers such amount of money at the moment, adding that the focus of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is on workers on grade level 1 to level 6, where he claimed the impact of the wage would be felt by workers.
While urging workers to show more understanding to the plight of the federal government, he said the current economic realities may make the implementation of the new minimum wage not feasible across board.
His words:“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, once you able to reach agreement, the principle of ability to pay comes in.”
He said government was avoiding a situation where it would have to lay off workers, noting that this would add to the burden on the citizens.
“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 is not consequentialy 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 deframe this consequential adjustment because it will be bad if we are unable to do it and we finish this financial year by December. The budget cycle is going to return to January to December in 2020, so we have three months only before the recurrent funds are swept back into government treasury, that is the law,” he said.
He regretted 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.
The minister appealed to labour to accept the consequential adjustment from levels 7 to 17.
He assured that the government would not tell the labour leaders what it could not pay, stating that no worker deserved to be owed salary.
Speaking , Ajaero, appealed to the minister to ensure the prompt payment of the new minimum wage, stressing that the private sector must also be compelled to pay the N30, 000 wage.
He said there was need to review obsolete laws that were not in tune with present reality, adding that a situation where some private sectors pay their employees N10,000 and N15,000 was unacceptable.