—Describes 2022 as year of industrial dispute
—Explains why ASUU’s 8-months outstanding salary is not discussed
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja
The Federal Government said it will soon make a pronouncement on salary increases for civil and public servants to cushion the effect of the high inflation rate.
The government said already the Presidential Committee on Salaries is doing a review and is expected to come up with salary adjustments in the new year.
Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige, disclosed this to State House correspondents after he had a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Senator Ngige, who said that he was at the seat of power to discuss exhaustively issues concerning his ministry including employment and productivity, described 2022 as a year of industrial dispute.
Recall that the minister had recently hinted that the government would adjust workers’ salaries to meet up with the economic realities in the country occasioned by inflation.
Asked whether he discussed the issue of salary increase with the President looking at the rising inflation, he said:
“Yes, that’s what I am saying that the Presidential Committee on Salaries is working hand-in-hand with the National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission. The commission is mandated by the Act establishing them to fix salaries, wages, and emoluments in not only the public service.
“If you want their assistance and you are in the private sector, they will also assist you. They have what is called the template for remuneration, for compensation. So if you work, you get compensated, if you don’t work, you will not be compensated.
“So they have the matrix to do the evaluation, so they are working with the Presidential Committee on Salaries Chaired by the finance ministry and I’m the co-chair to look at the demands of the workers. Outside this, I said discussions on that evaluation are going.”
Also asked whether a timeline has been fixed for the implementation of the new salary increase, he said:
“As we enter the new year government will make some pronouncements in that direction.”
On why he was at the State House, Senator. Ngige said he came to brief the President on the activities of his ministry as the year comes to an end.
According to him, “Well, majorly, I came to brief Mr. President, you know the year is coming to an end and we have to look at our 2022 exhaustively. Part of my ministry, we are to discuss labour issues…and what we are able to do. First and foremost, we look at the employment situation in the country and what we have achieved and what we have not achieved.
“Employment is high and various policies and I have to tell him the successful ones we are in them. We also had a briefing on productivity viz a viz the various industrial disputes we had in 2022.
“It’s a year we can call a year of industrial dispute starting from the February Academic Staff Union of the Universities (ASUU) strike which was joined by other sister unions in the university system and even the people in the research institutes.
“And thereafter, threats from various unions including the medical doctors association and its youth wing, the National Association of Resident Doctors, JOHESU which is also the Joint Health Sector Union all were asking for a wage increase.
“Asking for a wage increase can also be understandable because of what inflation had done in the economy and the attendant cost of living for people who have to be workers in the public sector. In the private sector, the private sector employers have managed their affairs better, maybe, because their finances and their management is within their very audit and they could control it, they could do collective bargaining very easily with their workers.
“The banking sector, Food, and beverages, and finance insurance everywhere. So there is calm there. We didn’t have the desired calmness on the government’s side because of the government’s finances.
“However, I’ve briefed him, we are doing some review within the Presidential Committee on Salaries, and discussions are ongoing. The doctors are discussing with the ministry of health, and insurance people in the public sector discussing and there is a general calmness. Hopefully, within available resources, the government can do something in the coming year.”
Further asked about the position of the government on the right month’s outstanding salaries ASUU is requesting, he said for now the matter is in court for proper interpretation of the Trade Dispute Act as it concerns no work, no pay policy invoked by the government during the strike period.
He said, “ASUU has not pronounced anything on their salaries anymore because it’s one of the issues that was referred to the National Industrial Court for determination, whether a worker who is on strike should be paid in violation of section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act which says when you go on strike, the consequences are these: number one, you will not be paid, you will not be compensated for not going to work to enable your employer keep the industry or enterprise afloat.
“That money should not be given to you, and that compensation should not be given. It’s there in Section 43 (1). There is a second leg to Section 43, it also said that that period you were on strike will not count for you as part of your pensionable period of work in your service. That leg, of government, has not touched it, but the leg of no-work-no-pay has been triggered off by that strike.
“So, we are asking the court to look at it. So the matter is out of the hand of the executive (that’s us) and in the hand of the judiciary. ASUU has also put up a defense in court, asking the court, yes we went on strike, but we did that for a reason. So it’s now left for the court to look at it.”
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