Workers’ Apathy Delays New Pension Scheme Take Off In Enugu
Negligence by past governments and contempt on the part of a section of the state’s civil service may have been responsible for the delayed implementation of the contributory pension scheme in Enugu State.
It was gathered that the workers shunned the new scheme because they were yet to recover from salaries and allowances owed for several months, especially during the administration of former governor, Chimaroke Nnamani.
They feared also that the contributory nature of the new scheme may not favour them and would likely increase their burden, as the state was in the habit of not paying salaries and gratuities when due. This was compounded by the poor take-home package for workers, which was considered the ‘poorest’ in the country.
Confronted with these realities, the government was forced to jettison subscription to the scheme.
The controversy over the new scheme’s fate in the state lingered until the review of the minimum wage by the Federal Government.
But rather than review the minimum wage, the Sullivan Chime administration increased salaries of junior workers by N10, 000, while senior workers got nothing.
However, state chairman, Workers’ forum, Mr. Osmond Ugwu, said the scheme was not in line with principle of justice, as it was an attempt to further strangulate the ‘poor’ state workers.
Said he: “The new scheme prepares the retirees to die before their time, because there is nothing you are hoping on. It is a policy of frustration and is founded on injustice. It has no benefit for the workers.
“When a governor retires, he will go home with sundry benefits, including houses and cars, among others. In addition, he will continue to receive his basic salary and allowance until his death. But when a civil servant, who has worked for 35 years, retires, he is uncertain of the amount he will receive. That is the injustice in the whole arrangement. The judiciary was removed from the scheme because they know it violates the contract of employment of workers.”
Noting that the two pension schemes in Nigeria create division and room for suspicion, he said, “Under the first scheme, everybody operated under the same umbrella and everybody received same treatment. The army, who were part of the scheme, agitated against it and they were removed from it. The Police have also been removed. It is part of the capitalist policy of the government, and it has no benefit for the common man. There is no particular interest accruable to the saved money.
“If the money is saved by the individual in a bank for such period of time, there will be some interest on it. So, some people are using the money to run business without any benefit to the worker.”
But chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in the state, Chukwuma Igbokwe, said Enugu State has keyed into the scheme, adding that the PFAs are currently registering workers.
“The bill was passed in Enugu State in 2014 (Contributory Pension Bill) and the state has shortlisted PFAs, who are already registering workers. The next stage will be the actual valuation to know those who are qualified. Those who have less than five years are not qualified.
“For those that are qualified, actual valuation will determine how much they contributed and it will be transferred to their PFA, so that when they retire, they will be paid what they have contributed.
“We have also asked the state government to set up the pensions Bureau to run the scheme. It is a scheme that we will embrace all because we know that it will be beneficial to workers than setting aside money that you will not see tomorrow.”
Stressing the need for workers to embrace the scheme, he stated that he was convinced that government would soon stop setting aside money for pension, as workers retire without adequate provision for their pension now.
The State Commissioner for Labour and Productivity, Mr. Emeka Okeke, said the government was working to ensure that workers are fully enroll into the scheme within the shortest possible time, and that several meetings had been held with organised labour on the matter.
“We are working towards that,” he said. “We’ve met with labour unions, but there are grey areas we want to clear and as soon as that is done, it shall fully be complied with. Government is keen on that and committed to the welfare of the state workers and I tell you that the contributory scheme is part of it. It has worked in many states, so Enugu will not be an exception.”
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