Dr Chris Ngige, the current Nigeria’s Minister of Labour and Productivity, has said that the…
States, Workers spoil for War over Minimum Wage
Fresh from concluding the minimum wage consequential adjustment negotiations with the Federal Government, the Organised Labour is warming up for a fresh battle with states over the recent condition given by governors for the implementation of the new minimum wage.
Although the Organised Labour and the Federal Government had reached an agreement on the consequential adjustment on the new minimum wage, with the directing that the implementation should commence on or before December 31, many states appear not to agree with this.
To some states, what happens between the Federal Government and its workers does not apply to them because Nigeria operates a federal system.
Rising from its meeting during the week, the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) said the agreement between the Federal Government and labour on consequential adjustments on the new minimum wage was not binding on states.
Clarifying the forum’s position and the Federal Economic Council’s (FEC) decision, NGF Chairman Kayode Fayemi said the consequential increments in the implementation of the N30,000 Minimum Wage Act would depend on the capacity of each state.
Fayemi, who is Ekiti State governor, said each state had its State Executive Council (SEC), which is the highest decision making body.
“The forum as the representative body of the states keenly followed what happened in the negotiations that led to that template.
“As far as we are concerned, the best the forum can do is to stick with what has been agreed with the states. States are part of the tripartite negotiations. States agreed to that N30,000 minimum wage increase.
“States also know that there will be consequential adjustment but that will be determined by what happened on the state-by-state basis because there are different number of workers and different issues at the state level.
“Every state has its own trade union joint negotiating committee and they will undertake this discussion with their state governments.
While some labour leaders are optimistic that their governors would pay, others are not sure on the amount to be paid and when the payment would take off.
But Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President Ayuba Wabba said the issue had gone beyond if any one wants to agree or not, saying it has become a law.
”First, we wish to state that the NGF is not a negotiating body but merely a political organisation for the convenience of state governors.
“The tripartite committee from inception sent letters to each state government to send in their memoranda as their contributions to the new national minimum wage negotiating process. 21 states sent in their memoranda, quoting figures.
”The new minimum wage was a product of intense negotiations that lasted almost one year. The governors had six representatives on the Tripartite Committee – one state governor represented each of the geo-political zones.
“The representatives of the state governors were part of the work of the negotiating committee from beginning to the end. So, they cant say that they are not part of it,’’ Wabba said.
He said the union’s state chapters would get the guidelines for the negotiations with their various state governments on the consequential adjustments on the new minimum wage by next week.
The labour leader said governors should remember that they swore an oath to abide by the laws of the land, adding that the national minimum wage was now a law which they must implement.
A member of the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission and General Secretary of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, Comrade Issa Aremu, said: “It is law, and from the stand point of labour, it is an impeachable offence.
“Any governor that fails to pay is violating the law and he should be sanctioned. There is no way about it. If a governor fails or refuses to pay, the workers also should refuse to work.’’
Also, the General Secretary Association Senior Civil Servant of Nigeria (ASCSN), Comrade Alade Lawal, said the union had invited its representatives from each state, adding that the representatives would be guided on how to go about it.
He said the union expected that states would use the decision arrived at the federal level during negotiations with the state councils.
Lawal said the NGF didn’t have a say on what should be paid to workers. He said some states were expected to pay more than the decision at the federal level.
“The state governments are only playing games. They were represented in the minimum wage discussions. They cannot come round to deny their responsibilities.
‘’They are simply courting simply courting labour anger and we are ready for them. Guidelines have not been released by the federal government but certainly we have assurances that the templates will soon be out,” he said.
However, Lawal said any state which would not keep to the agreement reached with labour should be ready for labour’s reaction.
In the same vein, the General Secretary, NLC, Comrade Emman Ugbuaja, said the minimum wage had become a law and nobody could tamper with it. He said what the governors said was a fact, adding that states were expected to pay according to their capacities.
“Of course, there are some states that have the capacity to even pay more than what we agreed on at the federal Level. Each state’s capacity would determine how much it would pay,” Ugbuaja said.
However, while some states were ready to pay the new wage, before the Federal Government and Organised Labour concluded negotiations, investigation revealed that no fewer than 10 states were owing workers backlog of benefits including salaries.
Going by the checks, the potential battle ground states are Zamfara, Taraba, Kogi, Osun, Ondo, Ogun and Ekiti. Many of the states are still battling to pay the old N18,000 minimum wage promptly or are owing backlog of benefits.
For Abia State, investigation revealed that the state owes its civil servants, including teachers, up to six months’arrears.
Similarly, Adamawa State is said to owe some categories of workers, such as secretariat staff, nurses, midwives and secondary school teachers various months of salaries and other benefits.
While Benue owes its workers no less than five months, its Imo counterpart owes shortfalls from the previous government.
In Ondo State, one month arrears left by the previous administration is still pending. Its Ekiti counterpart owes council workers six months, and civil servants three months’ arrears. Also in Osun, the government is owing civil servants on Level Eight to 13, nine months’arrears, and those on Level 14 to 16 14 months’ arrears.
A report by an independent firm, BudgiT, states that 33 state governments cannot finance their recurrent expenditure without allocation from the Federation Account.
The Federation Account, according to nigerianstat.gov.ng, is the central pocket through which the three tiers of governments maintain their workforce and fund developmental projects.
BudgiT said in the report released in Abuja that going by its findings, many states would be in jeopardy if the federal allocation were to reduce owing to oil price fluctuations.
The report titled: State of States 2019, explains that only three state governments – Lagos, Rivers and Akwa Ibom – could finance their recurrent expenditure independently, without allocation.
On the outcome of its findings, its Lead Researcher, Orji Uche, said only 19 states could meet their expenditure with internally generated revenue (IGR) and allocation. The report wonders why a state, such as Delta, was running huge recurrent expenditure reaching up to N200 billion. It also wondered why despite its population, Bayelsa still had a recurrent bill as high as N137 billion, compared with Ebonyi, which had a recurrent bill of N30 billion; Sokoto, N38 billion; Jigawa N43 billion and Yobe N35 billion.
It was learnt that the labour unions in many states are yet to meet their state governments to work out modalities on the date of implementation.
Rather, some of the state labour unions are relying on pledges by their state governments that they would pay the new wage without any agreement on the amount and the take-off date.
Source: The Nation
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