Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr Chris Ngige, on Thursday held a closed door meeting with a delegation from the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
The TUC national President, Mr Quadri Olaleye, who spoke with State House correspondents shortly after the meeting , said the union came to discuss some burning national issues with the Vice President.
It will be recalled that the organised labour had on Wednesday rejected the offer by the Federal Government on consequential adjustment for the new minimum wage for workers from Grade Levels Seven to 14.
It demanded the reconvening of the meeting of the committee negotiating the consequential adjustment with a view to concluding the process within one week.
Olaleye, however, told newsmen that his union used the opportunity of the meeting to proffer solutions, suggestions on how to resolve the issues.
“You are aware that the first burning issue in the country is the issue of minimum wage; we told the vice president the need to take a quick action on the issue of minimum wage;
“We have given an ultimatum already to the Federal Government and you know labour will not joke with that.
“So, we have encouraged him to also encourage the President to do something very urgent before the expiration of that ultimatum given to government,’’ he said.
Olaleye, said that the union also mentioned the issue of job creation, adding that it was not the responsibility of government to create jobs.
He said that job creation respinsibilitu rests squarely on the private sector and individuals.
Olaleye, said that the delegation told the Vice President that the Federal Government should look at the retirees as a means of creating jobs.
“We have suggested the way to do that and we will submit paper. We also mentioned the issue of insecurity; we have mentioned the quantum of money spent so far on insecurity in the country.
“We have advised that the money should be used to revive the companies that have been closed down in this country especially the textiles.
“And that the money can also be used to create other companies that will create jobs,’’ he said.
The TUC President, expressed optimism that as the representative of the president, Osinbajo would try to mediate.
He, said that unions would go further with the government to discuss on better ways to achieve the demands.
Olaleye, said that the delegation also raised concern about the plan to re-introduce toll gates as it would weigh down on workers who were still looking forward to getting a reviewed minimum wage.
Ngige, on his part, said that said the key issue was not the implementation of minimum wage per se but about the consequential movements as a result of the minimum wage for the least paid worker.
He, said that the minimum wage for the least paid worker currently was N30, 000 for the last man in the lowest rung of the ladder.
The Minister, said that if the government should implement the consequential adjustments and go up and do a 30 per cent rise across board on a sliding scale or accept the 25 per cent which labour is asking for, an extra N580 billion would be required.
“Government will need to go and look for an extra N580 billion to effect that; and that, government does not have.
“And one of the cardinal principles of consequential adjustment negotiations which we call in labour parlance, Collective Bargaining Agreement, is ability to do; the wherewithal to pay; the capacity to pay.
“The maxim of cut your coat according to your clothes comes in place there and government has done the consequential movement budget in 2019 budget which is what government can pay in order to maintain the balance in the recurrent expenditure, otherwise, we will overshoot.
“You know that this government said that we will do a 70-30 mix; 70 for recurrent expenditure, 30 percent only for capital expenditure; today with what labour is asking us to pay, If we pay that, it will translate to 15 per cent capital expenditure and 85 per cent recurrent and that doesn’t augur well for the country.
“It means we will abandon road construction; it means we will abandon refurbishment of airports, the rail that we are doing and even the schools that we are managing, the hospitals, everything will have to be abandoned and we will use everything to pay salaries and wages.’’
The minister said he was hopeful that labour would not go on strike.
He said that the Federal Government would open up negotiations next week and would lay its books open for labour to see.
“It is government’s books; they will see it; it is part of negotiations,’’ he said. (NAN)