By Wahab Akani, Abuja
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, on Monday blamed the disruption and protest by workers at the May Day celebration in Abuja on factions in the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).
Ngige told newsmen on the sideline of the celebration that what happened was as result of infiltration by non-workers into the rally venue and not necessarily workers anger about minimum wage.
The event was disrupted for close to one hour by workers who barred government officials from delivering the speech from the Federal Government.
He said that the workers had no reason to be angry with the present administration because it had been very friendly with them.
“The Federal Government has been friendly to workers to the extent that it even went ahead and initiated the bailout fund. No government has done that before and that was because we did not want to lay off any worker.
“So what happened today is that some people who are not really workers infiltrated this arena and they started causing some problems. Be that as it may, we are going to address the issue of minimum wage, we are also going to address the issue of backlog of promotion areas and allowances of all sorts.
“We captured them in the 2016 budget but for some reasons the releases are not forthcoming but the president of the senate has assured us now. So we are going to capture them in the 2017 budget and once it’s captured in the appropriation, the minister of finance will handle the rest.”
Ngige insisted that the venue was infiltrated by non-workers due to some factionalisation within the labour federation, adding that the conclusion was reached based on intelligent report.
He said the issue of minimum wage was being delayed because the government employed what it called a tripartite negotiation also known as social dialogue so as to capture all sectors.
He said this was because the issue did not concern the government or public sector alone but also the private sector so it needed time to carry everybody along.
“We have finished the framework for the composition of the committee of the minimum wage and we have passed it round to government to source the requisite and qualified persons that will man this committee.
“We are going to address the issue of minimum wage; we are also going to address the issue of backlog of promotion arrears and allowances so workers should be patient and give us some time.
“Within the next quarter, the minimum wage committee will start functioning and in the next three months too backlog of all arrears and other allowances that are due to them will be paid,’’ he said.
However, the President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Ayuba Wabba, and his counterpart, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr Bobboi Kagama, said that Nigerian workers had expressed anger and disappointment on the non-implementation of the minimum wage thereby disrupting the 2017 May Day celebration.
According to them, workers have today expressed their sadness, challenges, as many of them have not earn their salaries, so it is a demonstration of anger on the situation in the country.
“The challenges workers are passing through are enormous, workers have expected that either the President or the Vice president would have been present to respond to workers yearning and anticipation.
“Workers attitude today have shown that it is an accumulation of anger, and that the economic situation is biting very hard on them as many of them cannot pay their bills.”
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