Minimum wage: Labour exposes govs as Kwara, Niger raise concerns; Taraba adamant *See states on workers’ strike list

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Tuesday said 16 states of the federation were yet to implement the M30,000 national minimum wage, while 16 others  had commenced implementation.

NLC President Ayuba Wabba, who announced this at the National Administrative Council (NAC) of the congress, said its state councils had already been empowered to mobilise their members to withdraw their services once there was no show of commitment by their respective state governments towards implementing the new minimum wage.

Wabba listed the states  that had not complied to include; Benue, Cross River, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Ogun, Osun, Oyo,  Plateau, Rivers, Zamfara and Taraba state.

Those that complied, he said are Lagos, Borno, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Jigawa, Yobe, Katsina, Ondo, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano, Kaduna, Bayelsa, FCT, Anambra and Akwa- Ibom states.

Of these, three states only implemented the wage for workers on level 1-6. 

Wabba called on  the Taraba state government to respect the provisions of the New Minimum Wage Act and begin negotiations immediately, saying  no state government had any excuse not to pay the new wage.

He said: “We have been able to make some progress.  We have 16 that have signed and have commenced, we have three that have reached agreements but have not signed, we have 17 that negotiations are still ongoing. 

“I can say authoritatively that its only in Taraba that nothing has started; the committee has not been inaugurated, the process of dialogue has not commenced.  I want to call on the Taraba state governor to quickly respect the provisions of the Minimum Wage Act.  The Minimum Wage Act is already a law and every political office holder must respect the sanctity of our constitution and the oath of office they have sworn to uphold.

“If a worker is entitled to be paid his wages, the wages must be commensurate to what has been negotiated. In 90 percent of the countries around the world, minimum wage law is implemented and observed, so we cannot be an exception. 

“While appreciating those states and even the federal government that has paid all the workers under its employment including payment of arrears which has set the base and standard for states to follow, there is no excuse for any state not to pay workers a minimum wage that has been negotiated because 85% of the VAT increase goes to the states.

“We have empowered our state councils, once they reach a situation where they think there is no commitment we have given them the power to declare an action and withdraw their service and many states have done that. In Ogun and Niger, they did that before they were invited to the table. We don’t need to take any decision again to say that you need to do what you need to do.

“Once the state executive council feels that there is dillydallying on the minimum wage which is already a law, they should be able to enforce their own right and we will support and where they need reinforcements from the headquarters, we will be there to support them.”

Wabba, who further reiterated NLC’s call for the downward wage review of political office holders, maintained that in line with what was obtainable in other countries, the basic salary of politicians should also fall within the margin of the new minimum wage of N30, 000.

“The lawmakers are being overpaid, let’s look at the basics. In other climes like South Africa, the margin between the minimum wage and what politicians earn can be determined. In fact, there are empirical data to arrive at the differential. In our own case, what is the differential? 

“When we were receiving N18, 000 minimum wage, Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission reviewed the salary of political office holders by 800 per cent. Today, the official salary being earned by our political elite seems to be much more higher  than many countries around the world.

“I was thinking that review can be upward or downward and in the case of our political office holders, it should be downward so that we can be at the same level because we go to the same market. They should also be at the same margin of N30, 000 and then you look at specific allowance or special allowances. That is what is done in other climes; there must be justification to arrive at a wage. Equal pay for work of equal value that is the position of ILO. 

“If we are to be realistic, let us put the facts on the table, what is the earning; the official one and the non official one put it on the table so that there will be a process of transparency to even look at the need to review downward and what we need to review downward.”

Condemning the recent sealing of the NLC Rivers state office over the minimum wage implementation, Wabba, described the action as undemocratic, illegal and uncalled for.

He therefore called for immediate reopening of the secretariat. 

On the federal government’s decision to borrow N2 trillion from pension fund, the union said organised labour was not consulted.

 Wabba said the union would be at alert to ensure the safety of the N10 trillion pension funds.

“We will keep our eyes very open to ensure the safety of those funds and we also urge government to respect the provision of the law because it is only the Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) that can actually invest the fund in such a way and manner that the safety of the funds will be guaranteed and there will be maximum return on investment.”

…Niger gov begs workers

Meanwhile, Niger state Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello has pleaded with the organised union in the state not to embark on its planned strike.

The governor urged them to consider the peace and industrial harmony of the state, saying government was doing its best to meet the union’s demands.

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mrs. Mary Noel Berje, the governor cited paucity of funds available to the state both from the internally generated revenue and the statutory allocation as part of the reasons the demands of the labour had not been met.

 “We are still negotiating with the Labour, we intend to avert the industrial action and we are calling on the Organised Labour to rescind its decision to embark on the strike and allow negotiations to continue and consequently conclude arrangement.

“Government is working relentlessly to ensure that all pending labour-related issues are addressed swiftly”, the statement said.

The governor, however, lamented that 85 percent of the state’s allocation goes to payment of salaries.

The meeting between key government officials, led by Deputy Governor Ahmed Mohammed Ketso and the labour officials was still ongoing as at the time of this report.

…Kwara raises concerns

Similarly, Kwara state Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq Tuesday said the state government has made fact-based presentations to the labour unions on what it could afford without going to borrow to pay salary.

He appealed to labour union leaders to temper their demands with the financial realities of the state which it said, they were privy to.

A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Rafiu Ajakaye said the proposal made to the labour union on the consequential adjustment table reflected the financial reality of the state.
“The proposal includes that no worker will earn below the 30,000 minimum wage enacted by the Minimum Wage Act. We also made suggestions on the consequential adjustments as they affect the other cadres.

“Our initial proposal to the labour, which they have rejected means that Kwara will now spend 85% of its allocation on public sector workers alone, up from the current 75%, while well over 3.450million Kwarans, will struggle with the remaining 15% percent. This is very scary and hardly sustainable if we want to develop.

“We will continue to appeal to labour union leaders to temper their demands with the financial realities of the state which they are privy to.

“Indeed, the state government will soon make them a new offer based on the emerging realities of the state. It is important to note that the 2020 budget had been predicated on $57 per barrel of crude oil. But today, the price of crude oil has fallen to $54 and that means the financial projection of the country and indeed the state has been seriously altered.

“Nonetheless, we believe that the labour union leaders and indeed the entire work force are patriotic citizens who fully appreciate the peculiar situation of Kwara at the moment. We urge the workers’ unions to kindly see reasons why we cannot afford to go borrowing to pay salary in the face of yawning infrastructural deficits and underdevelopment,” the statement further said. 

…Workers go fasting

Notwithstanding the state government’s plea, Kwara workers have issued a 14-day ultimatum even as they commenced a three-day fasting to seek God’s face on the minimum wage palaver.

Their position followed the failure of both the state government and the negotiating committees to reach a compromise on the consequential adjournments tabled after meeting for more than three times in a week.

Consequent upon this, the NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) at a joint congress, asked workers to embark on a three-day fasting and prayer commencing from Wednesday(February 5th- 7th) for God’s intervention on the matter.

The organised labour also gave 14-day ultimatum to the state government to implement the new wage or risk industrial action.

The atmosphere was charged at the congress which was jointly presided over by the state’s NLC Chairman, Alhaji Aliyu Issa Ore and his TUC counterpart, Mr. Kolawole Olumo as leaders of the various affiliate unions who spoke at the meeting.

They expressed displeasure over the delay in the implementation in the state.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the organised labour also debunked claims by the state commissioner for finance that the committee had concluded on the table for the new minimum wage in the state.

The communiqué was jointly signed by Alhaji Ore, Mr. Olumoh and Chairman, Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC), Mr Saliu O Suleiman.

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