The federal government on Sunday gave reasons why it cannot meet the demand of labour unions that the national minimum wage be increased to N30,000.
The labour unions, NLC, TUC and ULC, have vowed to commence a nationwide strike from Tuesday if government does not meet its demand.
The workers unions accuse the government of going back on a N30,000 decision reached at a tripartite meeting between labour, government, and private employers.
However, the federal government says no agreement was reached at the tripartite meeting and insists on a N24,000 minimum wage, while the state governors say they would only be able to pay N22,500.
On Sunday, the labour unions boycotted a reconciliation meeting called by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
Speaking with journalist Sunday evening, the SGF, Boss Mustapha, said the meeting was part of the exercise that ought to be undertaken to ensure that there was a complete report to be submitted to the presidency on the issues relating to the minimum wage.
Mr Mustapha said that the tripartite committee has been working assiduously though there were outstanding issues that needed to be dealt with and that was the reason he called for the reconciliation meeting.
“Basically the only outstanding issue that needs to be dealt with is to harmonise the 5th chapter of the report and get the figures in for the purposes of submission to government,” he said.
The SGF said President Muhammadu Buhari, while inaugurating the tripartite meeting, emphasised the need for a unanimous resolution at the meeting, something that was yet to be agreed to.
“Mr President went further to emphasise that the concern is not only for the welfare of the workers but also every other thing should be taken on board as it affects the country’s economy.
“So it is a balance of the welfare of the workforce with the effect of the new minimum wage and the economy,” he said
The SGF quoting Mr Buhari said, “We yearn to go above basic social protection for Nigerian worker but also tie to the ability to pay, because I know that a lot of states are even having difficulty meeting the basic minimum wage”.
He noted that 27 states were having difficulty in paying the current minimum wage of N18,000, while noting that he was not making any excuses for them.
He did not elaborate on why labour unions boycotted the meeting but said the tripartite meeting will continue tomorrow.
“I want to assure all of you that once the report is concluded and ready, I will personally ensure that Mr President sign immediately on it,” he said.
Earlier on Sunday, the General Secretary of the NLC, Peter Ozo-Esan, told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview why his union boycotted the Sunday meeting.
“We (NLC) are not aware of any meeting with the SGF over any matter. A government that gets an injunction against us without putting us on notice until we heard from the press has shown enough bad faith.
“Even if we were aware, we would not be interested to attend any meeting. The meeting we are aware of, which we are going to attend, is the tripartite committee meeting tomorrow in Abuja. That’s the one we plan to attend. That is the official position,” he said.