The new minimum wage negotiation between the organised labour, organised private sector and Federal government took an interesting turn late midnight as the duo of FG and OPS made a new offer of N57,000 as the new minimum wage, while the organised labour reduced its initial figure from N500,000 to N497,000.

Recall that the high-level meeting was stalled on Tuesday, following the absence of some governors who were billed to attend but failed to turn up.

The Federal Government team had earlier insisted on the N54,000 it offered to workers on Tuesday, hinging its offer on the paucity of funds and the probability of the private sector to pay.

Speaking under condition of anonymity, the source said, “Government has agreed that NLC is using evidence-based presentation. But they argue that eight states are not paying or not fully implementing the 2019 minimum wage.”

The source further said, “Government is talking of non-availability of fund. They are also talking about the inability of the private sector to pay.”

On Labour shifting of ground by the organised labour, the source said, “Labour has been requested to shift in response to the Government. They complied and came down to N500,000.”

He disclosed that the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma was present at the meeting.

“The Imo State Governor has stepped in. He is not a member of the committee but it is good that there is at least a governor, as the six governors in the committee have been regularly absent.”

Recall that at the meeting on Tuesday, our source had revealed that the offer made by government to stick to N54,000 was tantamount to wage reduction, especially as the least paid worker received N70,000.

He had noted that with the stance of government, it had not started any meaningful deliberation and time was fast running out.

Recall also that the meeting which ended in an inconclusive note, was stalled by the absence of some state governors who ought to be there to key into any resolutions that would emerge from the meeting.

According to our source who attended the meeting, “It took some time to state what they want to pay and they were passing the buck on who will present it and then the Minister of Labour now said they have shifted the ground to N54,000.

“We still told them that, that ground they shifted, they have not started the negotiation. As it is now the take home of the lowest paid worker is over N70,000. So, by their standard, we have not started negotiating minimum wage, what we are negotiating now is wage reduction because what they are now telling us is that if we walk out from there, if we agree on N57,000 that means we will come out and tell people who are already earning N77,000 that their wage has been reduced. We told them that workers can’t start earning less than what he/she was earning.

“Is it that there is reduction in inflation or that the cost of living has improved, or is it that the cost of food has come down, why will they now be negotiating wage reduction, it’s unthinkable, we cannot involved in this kind of a thing that labour will sit down and be negotiating wage reduction and on what will it be based? Will it be based on the fact that the money they are collecting now since petroleum subsidy was removed has been reduced?

“Or why will they now be talking about wage reduction when even the inflation is going higher and the cost of living is going higher. So, we told them that that is not acceptable, but then we had to adjourn because we could not continue to negotiate without the presence of governors.

“It will not augur well for the Tripartite Committee. They said they didn’t know why the governors were not there, six of them that are supposed to be on that committee. We told them that this is a serious matter because when they refuse to come even if at the end we agree on anything they will say it’s not bidding on them because they were not there. There was a permanent secretary representing one governor and the person may have no input, so nobody will decide on their behalf when they are not there. So, we had to adjourn to tomorrow by 4 pm.

“So we said let’s adjourn and invite the governors formally. When they offered N57,000, we told them they had not started, we didn’t see that as any shifting of ground which they promised, shifting ground must start from the point of negotiations for minimum wage, anything below N75,000 is wage reduction, anything below take home of the lowest paid worker is wage reduction. We cannot start negotiating wage reduction.

“Already the clock is ticking, we gave them May 31 deadline to conclude negotiations, today is May 21, we have 10 days to go and it will not augur well for this country if negotiations are not concluded on time. This one is no more the case of we didn’t do an agreement, it’s the case of the government not negotiating the minimum wage. I don’t think we need any other notice (for strike). They also said that as far as they are concerned, they are working towards that so that we will conclude before we go to Geneva for the ILO.”