The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Tuesday expressed regrets that the negotiations for a new national minimum wage was yet to commence even as the economic funamentals were changing.
NLC President Comrade Ayuba Wabba who made this known at the ongoing Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council in Yenagoa said that the prevailing economic scenario when the agitation for a national minimum wage started has changed.
“It is a matter of concern that up till now, the negotiations for a new minimum wage is yet to start, as at the time we tabled our demands, the exchange rate of naira to the dollar was about N150 but todady it is around N360.
“It is our desire that negotiations should commence in earnest as the economic scenario has been very harsh for the Nigerian workers, we urge the government to fast track the process,” Wabba said.
Speaking earlier, Mrs Didi Walson-Jack, Permanent Secretary at the Service Welfare Office at Office of Head of Civil Service of the Federation said that the federal government has adopted a new approach to improve welfare of civil servants.
She said that under the new approach, the government sees the welfare of its workforce as a priority by ensuring regular consultation with labour leaders to reduce friction at the work place.
“It is the belief of the federal government that Nigerian workers have a right to a safe and conducive working environment as well as enhanced welfare package, inluding regular payment of salaries, it is a right and not a privilege.
“However, labour leaders must show understanding in view of the economic challenges before us, our new approach is to see government and labour as part of the team working for the delivery of service to Nigerians, it is no longer we against them.
“We are all part of the team playing together in the same team and we shall win together and we should encourage civil servants to change their attitude to work and justify their salaries,” Walson-Jack said.
In his address to the delegates, Gov Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa noted that the nation was going through challenging economic times which has made it difficult for various tiers of government to meet its obligations to the workforce.
He said that the collaboration with labour in dealing with the overbloated wage bill resulted to reduction of the state’s wage bill from N6 bn to N4 bn monthly
He explained that workers welfare was a priority in his administration adding that the government holds regular consultations with labour leaders in the ongoing public service reforms in the state.
Dickson said that the state government was not responsible for the salary backlog in the local government system in the state which ranges from 10 to 16 months.
“We have never tampered with local government funds in Bayelsa, I do no know of other states but here once the allocation comes, the Commisioner of Local Government ensures that the council funds are transferred directly to them.
“The fact is that due to the reduction in revenues acruable to them, they simply cannot meet their salary obligations and sometime we auguement to assist them, so the views that government is respomsible for the arreas in the local government system is a blackmail,” Dickson said.