In a bid to halt strikes by the organised labour, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed ministries and agencies to open the books to the labour on the state of affairs of the economy and the challenges facing government.
Specifically, he wants the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning as well as all the government institutions that have to do with finances to join the campaign.
The Minister of Employment, Labour, and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige told reporters after a meeting with President Buhari on update on the strike by National Association of Resident Doctors.
Persecondnews had reported that the doctors on Thursday called off the strike following an understanding reached with the Federal Government.
The doctors had embarked on an industrial action on September 7 over government’s inability to meet their demands, including insurance package, payment of the outstanding COVID-19 allowance as well as the payment of medical residency training fund.
Also, the Trade Union Congress and 79 other civil society organisations and labour unions under the aegis of the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond codenamed ASCAB are set to stage nationwide protests next week over fuel price and electricity tariff.
Ngige said the meeting is to hold on Saturday September 12 in Abuja.
“The President has approved for us to have a bigger government side meeting with the organized private labour; all the government institutions that have to do with the finances of government so that we meet with them and show them the books.
“So, the invitation is going out to them this afternoon (Friday), the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and their affiliates or supporters and friends in the Civil Society Organisations. The meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, so, I will relate more with the Chief of Staff to the President and the leadership of the unions today so that we do this meeting tomorrow.
“At the meeting, government finances, challenges and everything will be laid bare on the table. Their own fears and what they think is also good for the Nigerian people especially the workers, they will also table it so that we look at it,” the minister said.
According to Ngige, the recent hike in electricity tariff was done by the regulatory body based on certain realities confronting the sector.
He said: “The electricity tariff as you know, the Electricity Regulatory Commission approved the increase based on certain electricity band R1 and R2 and even in the R2 band, you have soft bands so that we can protect the rural poor and people who are in the suburbs.
“So, we are going to look at them holistically because we want a stable labour industrial union in the country so the President has been briefed and he is in tune and has given the support to talk to everybody we need to talk to.”
On the planned strike by the tripartite unions of the non-academic staff unions of universities, the minister said: “Government is aware of all the government institutions that have to do with the finances of government, that is why we to meet with them and show them the books. We had already invited them to a meeting, to discuss, so as to address their concerns.
“The tripartite unions of university system including some colleges of education and some hospitals; Non-Academic Staff of Universities (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), we have invited them to a meeting, the leadership met with me last week and the major thrust of the challenges they have is on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) system.
“They claim and allege that the IPPIS system is over deducting some line items like taxes, the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) taxes they claim the IPPIS system is charging more than they suppose to debit.
“The also claim that some allowances that are peculiar to the university system like responsibility allowance, hazard allowance, field trip allowance and education of children allowance, that the IPPIS has stopped all of them.”
The minister said government had discussed the unions, adding “we now want to do a special session with them.”
“They come with their facts and the Accountant-General will lead his team, the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission will also come and the Ministry of Labour will lead and then we discuss and find out who is treating the other unfairly.”