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Minimum Wage: Fury in states as governors renege on FG figures

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NLC

Until recently, the NLC in Kwara State has been tight-lipped on its position in the new minimum wage impasse. This caused some stakeholders within the state to express worries over the alleged helplessness of organised labour in the state.

But all these notwithstanding, labour in the state maintained its position that it will react appropriately at the right time when it would also point at the direction for its members to go depending on the advise/directive of the national leadership of the NLC.

It restated that position last week when it said that it would soon disclose its stand on the much-awaited implementation of the N30, 000 new minimum wage for workers in the state.

The union promised never to hastily endorse any Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the state government on the issue, but continue to await further directives on the issue from its national headquarters.

The state Chairman of the NLC, Issa Ore, who made the disclosure at a parley with state chairmen of industrial unions, which held at the Labour House, Ilorin, said the congress had agreed to wait for the new template following a recent meeting held in Enugu State, where its national leadership “cautioned labour leaders at the state level against rushing into signing agreements with their state governments.”

Besides, Ore assured pensioners in the state of the NLC’s readiness to constantly make case for their welfare, stressing that they would not be left out in the struggle to make life meaningful for all and sundry.

The labour leader appealed to workers in the state to be patient, assuring them that their interests and yearnings would be articulated and followed to the letter.

He said the congress would also work with organised labour, including the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Joint Negotiating Council (JNC), etc., to ensure success in its struggle for the cause of workers and pensioners.

The meeting also frowned at the recent questionnaire, which purportedly emanated from the Office of the Head of Service, and circulated to civil servants across the state, asking them to, among other things, assess the performances of labour leaders in the state.

While condemning the act, in its totality the labour leaders described it as a calculated attempt to polarise the organised labour in the state.

At the meeting, the NLC chairman also called on the second Vice Chairman, Comrade Yusuf Ayinla, who represented him at the Enugu meeting to brief the house on what transpired at the meeting. Ayinla is also the chairman of the Nigeria Union of local government employees (NULGE).

Rivers’ Workers Demoralised Over Delay In Implementation
THIS year’s Workers’ Day celebration in Rivers State was exceptional, as workers left the General Yakubu Gowon Stadium, venue of the celebration excited following the assurance by Governor Nyesom Wike that his government would implement the N30, 000 minimum wage.

However, six months after the promise was made, the smiles are thinning away from the faces of workers in the state. 

Now, many of them are not only apprehensive but are also demoralised, especially with the way that the implementation has been shrouded in controversy.

The Guardian gathered that the state government is waiting for the release of the template by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) to enable it to begin the implementation of the new wage.

Speaking on the delay the state Chairman of NLC, Beatrice Itubo, called for calm, reiterating that the state government has promised to pay the new wages.

She, however, expressed reservations on the delay saying, “everybody is worried about the delay, but right here in Rivers State, there must be a template as soon as the NSIWC comes out with a template. We hope the state government will comply.

“The delay is not motivating us again. Wages, when they come, have a way of motivating workers to put in their best. But now, people are no longer happy, that is why we are calling on the government to act now because people are no longer motivated. I know they are apprehensive; they have become demoralised, but I will still advise them to remain firm and optimistic,” she stated.

Itubo, who called on the Commission to urgently release the template, added that states should not revel in paying the outdated salaries in the guise of the Commission’s delay in releasing the template.

She insisted that every state government is capable of paying the new minimum wage, and can pay it with ease if they are desirous of doing so.

Her words: “Each and every state government is able to pay this money if it wants to pay. State governors, apart from having myriads of aides, also have ways of cornering a lot of funds for themselves. So, they should be able to do the needful, but the problem is that governors want to live large and continue to play with the taxpayers’ money.”

“What is the essence of building so many roads when the people that will use the roads are hungry and dying, and not living a healthy life? Government should begin to look at human capital development, and building human infrastructure.”

On his part, Michael Chinagoro, a civil servant said: “We are tired of failed promises by governments; our governments are not sincere at all. If they are, what would it take for the Commission to release the template?”

IMO Govt Mum Over New Minimum Wage
FROM all indications, the Imo State government may not immediately commence either the payment of the N30, 000 new minimum wage, or make any upward review of workers’ salary.

So far, no known computations have been made to ascertain the actual amount that the state would require to implement the new law.

Right now, the state’s Accountant General, Donald Igbo, is still grappling with the determination of the percentage of full salaries paid to civil servants in the state.

In August, Governor Emeka Ihedioha gave an executive approval for the complete payment of salaries to workers in the state. The approval was contained in a circular addressed to senior civil servants by Igbo.

The August 5, 2019, dated memo read in part: “I am directed to refer to government House letter No GH/PL/S111/141 dated 1st August 2019, on the above subject and convey His Excellency’s Hon Emeka Nkem Ihedioha, Governor of Imo State’s approval to commence the payment of 100% salaries to Imo State workers, with effect from 1st August 2019.

“You are therefore directed to submit your August 2019 salary with total adherence to 100% salary structure agreed and signed by the government and joint labour Unions in 2011.”

Ihedioha, while giving an account of the state’s financial standing recently, lamented that the state was left with little or nothing after each month’s payment of full salaries to its employees, as well as payment of pensions; monthly deduction from the Federal Government (as a result of bailout fund of over N23b by the Rochas Okorocha administration), payment of subventions to tertiary institutions and funding of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

The governor equally informed that the monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of about N241m (as of May 29) increased to N875m in September due to the Executive Order 005, which he signed directing the operation of Treasury Single Account (TSA).

This led to the closure of all 250 proxy accounts allegedly operated by the immediate past administration.

The former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives disclosed that about N480m would be saved after the payment of pensions to about 25,000 retirees every month after the recently concluded retirees’ verification exercise. Some retirees in the state are owed over 85 months of pension arrears.

As at the time of filing this report, the state government, which receives slightly above N4b monthly from the Federation Account, had not made any official pronouncement on its position as far as the N30, 000 new minimum wage is concerned.

The Imo State Chairman of the NLC, Austin Chilapku, in his comment, said the congress would raise a committee to ensure full implementation of the new minimum wage, insisting that the congress would not listen to any excuses coming from the state governors.

Cross River Rejects Consequential
Negotiation By Govt, Labour

The Cross River State government has expressed its willingness to pay the new minimum wage but rejected the consequential adjustment carried out by the Federal Government in concert with the NLC.

The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Governor Ben Ayade, Mr. Christian Ita said: “The issue is not about minimum wage, but the consequential increase, which the governors did not agree to.

“State governments are willing to pay the minimum wage, but what the governors are saying is that the Federal Government cannot enter an agreement on the consequential order on behalf of the states, and since my boss was at that meeting, I assume that, is his position. That position is the position of all state governors. So, Cross River State is not bound by the agreement that labour had with the Federal Government.”

On what the stand of the governors mean to the states, Ita said, “I really don’t know,” but on the impact on the state’s labour force, wage bill and others, he said the new minimum wage will certainly eat into the state’s finances, that is including what we get from the Federation Account, and internally generated revenue.

“Ab initio, to even pay salaries, we are always in deficit. It’s going to be very difficult on us and that is the reality,” the governor’s aide said.

However, the Chairman of Trade Union Congress (TUC) in the state, Mr. Clarkson Otu, said he is not surprised with the government’s position regarding the consequential adjustment agreement that labour had with the Federal Government.

“I am not surprised with what is happening because after the minimum wage was agreed at the national level, and signed into law, it took the Federal Government a long time to agree on the consequential adjustment. So, it is the government that opened the way for states to begin to complain.

“If you recall, we never used to have this kind of long and frustrating negotiation over consequential adjustments. Before now, after the minimum wage has been signed into law, it used to be done quietly, and before you know it, in a few days the table will be out. But in this one, the Federal Government, I learned did not want to adjust the next salary grade level to benefit other people, and was more interested in paying the minimum wage. So, the states are taking a queue from what the Federal Government did, but I am not sure they will get what they want if they return to their various states.”

Otu continued: “For instance, what is 23.2 per cent for someone that is on Grade Level 7? If you bother to take it into consideration, how much can 23.2 per cent translate into for this class of worker? It is almost nothing, but a mere peanut. If at the federal level the salary is almost double of what obtains at the state level, if you check what this consequential adjustment translates to, it is still not much, talk less of a state like Cross River, where the salary itself is very low.

“It’s okay if the states say that the Federal Government cannot negotiate for them, but they have forgotten that it was labour that negotiated with the Federal Government, so the labour at the federal level will transcend to the state. Let them come back home because we are here waiting for them and not interested in any other negotiation. State governors should just adopt those percentages as they are because there is nothing more to negotiate with them,” Otu said.

Abia Stands By NGF’s Decision, Willing To Negotiate
ABIA State may have signified its intention to pay the new minimum wage, but it also says it stands with the decision of the NGF, even as it was ready to sit down with labour and sort things out.

The state Information Commissioner, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, told The Guardian that, “Abia will not be left behind in the new minimum wage implementation. When other states were struggling to pay N18, 000, Abia State was paying N20, 000 as minimum wage. So, the state government will sit down with the organised labour and agree on which category gets what, with regards to consequential adjustment in wages.”

He insisted that the Okezie Ikpeazu-led administration was ready to commence negotiations with labour as soon as possible.

Reacting to the development, the chairman of NLC in the state, Comrade Uchenna Obigwe, told The Guardian that the NLC will not yet speak on the consequential adjustment until the circular regarding the template is formally released to states to enable them to know the finer details of the adjustments.
 
Obigwe claimed that not long ago, the governor stated that it is only someone that is not on ground that does not know that the issue of a new minimum wage has come to stay, just as he recalled that Abia State had earlier indicated interest to pay N42, 000 as the minimum wage in the state.

Cautious Optimism In Enugu State
ENUGU State has not in any way presented itself as one of the states that are incapable of implementing the new minimum wage. This is because, apart from ensuring regular payment of salaries, the state government has continued to pay 13th-month salary to the workers, while the government-labor relationship has been harmonious since the current administration came on board. Pensioners are also enjoying peace with the regular payment of their pensions and gratuities.

All these notwithstanding, there is a level of anxiety over how the new package will be implemented in the state, especially as Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, on two different occasions where workers expected him to take a definite stand on the new wage ended up disappointing them.

One of those occasions was the Workers’ Day celebration, which took place at the Michael Okpara Square, on May 1, 2019. At the event, the leadership of workers’ unions in the state presented addresses, where they urged the state government to implement the new minimum wage to cushion the effect of economic hardship on workers.

The governor responded by telling them that the state would wait and see a final resolution was reached on the matter, assuring, however, that it was poised to ensure an improvement in their welfare.

The second occasion was the national retreat of labour, which held in Enugu to discuss the new minimum wage. Again, the governor responded that his government was waiting for a resolution on the matter.

There is a joint committee of government representatives and workers that have been meeting in the state since the new wage was approved to sort out grey areas in the implementation. Sources said members of the committee have disagreed a number of times over the category of workers that should benefit, and what should accrue to each level.

Although it is not in the category of oil-producing states, its workers are said to be among the least and poorly paid in the country. Consequently, the clamour for salary review for workers has been on long before the new wage was approved.

The state’s workforce is not a bloated one based on the level of recruitments that Ugwuanyi had made since coming into office, but there is no official figure on the number of persons in the employ of the state.

Apparently to ascertain the true state of its workforce and pensioners, and to checkmate ghost workers in the state, the government a few years ago embarked on biometric capture of its workers and pensioners.

An official in the Ministry of Finance, who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Guardian that the state “is already burdened by the monthly wage bill,” stressing that, “to pay the new wage, we will not only look inwards, we will also wait for the Federal Government to release the monthly allocation to the state.”

He added: “Enugu State is among states that take home one of the least amounts from the Federation Account. Each time we receive the money and pay salaries, there is very little left for the government to service other needs of the state. But thankfully, the government is doing all it can to raise its internally generated revenue (IGR), and block the leakages in the system. That is why we can hopefully say that with a little push, we will handle to the satisfaction of the workers, the new wage increase.”

He stated that the state may reprioritise in the near future with a view to plowing back resources into productive ventures to cushion the effect of the added burden, which the new wage represents.

For the state Chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr. Chukwuma Igbokwe, the fears experienced in the state were expected, even though he remains hopeful that the joint negotiation committee, which the state government set up over the new wage would arrive at an acceptable template to the delight of the workers of the state.

Commissioner for Information, Nnanyelugo Chidi Aroh, said the state has had a wonderful collaborative relationship with the labour, stressing that when the ongoing conversation between workers and government ends, “the government will come up with a statement on its position on the minimum wage.”

He, however, added that “Enugu is the least of states, where organised labour would have issues with the state government.”

Hopes Dims For Taraba Workers
Unlike in states where governors have signified their interest and readiness to work towards implementing the new minimum wage, the reverse appears to be the case in Taraba State.

As at the time of filing this report, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was yet to come to an agreement with the government on how, and when to commence negotiation on behalf of the workers, whose joy knew no bounds when Buhari signed the minimum wage bill into law.

The state NLC chairman, Peter Gambo, told The Guardian that the inability of the Federal Government to make available the templates to the states promptly would no doubt prevent Taraba workers from enjoying the new remuneration in good time.

He faulted the Federal Government who, according to him made a verbal pronouncement “without any documents to back up its position.

He explained that the delay in engaging the state government in any form of negotiations was “because there is no document or template for us to rely on.”
 
According to him: “If the Federal Government actually means business, and wants to put smiles on the faces of Nigerian workers, it should make the appropriate documents available to know the right steps to follow while negotiating with our state governments.”

The state chairman of TUC, Victor Olatunde, who expressed optimism that the much-awaited template from the wages Commission would soon be out, equally expressed the hope that Governor Darius Ishaku would work towards implementing the increase.

Olatunde said both the leadership of the NLC and that of the TUC would only wade into the issue if the negotiation council fails to arrive at an agreement with the government.

In Kano, Civil Servants Wait On Ganduje To Redeem Pledge
ALTHOHGH the Kano State government was among the few states that assured it would pay its workers the new minimum wage, public servants in the state may, however, need to wait for the outcome of the technical committee constituted by the government to renegotiate the consequential adjustment of the new salary regime.

Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State did not only pledge to pay the new wage but also said his administration would go a notch higher by paying the sum of N30, 600.

Meanwhile, the labour union in the state is demanding the immediate implementation of the new salary package.

The Head of Civil Service, Dr. Kabiru Shehu, in an interview with The Guardian disclosed that the government will require over N10b monthly to pay the improved wage to its over 180, 000 workforce.

On whether the government has the financial muscle to sustain a massive N10b monthly wage bill, Shehu said, “ I want to believe that paying N10b monthly as minimum wage will not be difficult. Before now, the government has been paying N9.6b monthly on wage bills. It might not be too easy, but having committed to do it, the government will definitely pay.”

He said the state government has already set up a committee to improve the state’s IGR, coupled with the target of 300 per cent increase mandate handed to agencies entrusted with revenue generation in the state.

However, the labour union in a statement signed by its chairman Kabiru Ado Minjibir, and acting secretary, Hussaini Budah, reminded the state government that the negotiation period was over, urging Governor Ganduje to direct the immediate implementation.

Oyo Workers To Know Fate After Consultative Meeting With Government
WORKERS in Oyo State are waiting with bated breath as the state government has said that it will review all situations that have so far arisen before settling down to implement the minimum wage, and this will definitely be after a consultative meeting with workers.

The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, who made the disclosure to The Guardian, noted that the issue of minimum wage and staff strength would be settled after a comprehensive review must have been done.

Adisa said: “The governor has already put it out there that between March 10 and May 28, 2019, the state’s wage bill ballooned by as much as N1b, and the state government will review everything that has to do with staff strength, and the issue of minimum wage will also be determined after a consultative meeting with workers. It is after that has been done that the issue will be determined.”

But TUC in the state said that governors across the states do not have any option than to pay what has been agreed upon at the national level.

Speaking with The Guardian, its chairman, Comrade Emmanuel Ogundiran, said governors would not be allowed to enslave workers.

“State governors want to enslave the average worker. Who fixes the salaries of governors, members of Houses of Assembly? How could the National Salaries, Incomes, and Wages Commission lead, and participate in an exercise and a group say that they are higher than the law? We are expecting the template, which would be tendered to the governors. They are toying with impeachment. Any governor that cannot pay the new minimum wage should resign. Who among the governors is better than workers? The law is on our side. Workers have moved from where they think we were, so state governors should think outside the box,” Ogundiran said.

Akwa Ibom Will Pay New Minimum Wage
IT appears like workers in Akwa Ibom State may not experience the hullabaloo going on in most states before having access to improved pay packets going by realities on the ground.

Speaking with The Guardian on the issue, the state chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Sunny James, said that the state government’s promise of paying the minimum wage has not changed as far as he is concerned.

“We have already started negotiations; the Akwa Ibom State government was the first state to inaugurate the implementation committee two years ago. The governor has never said he will downsize the workforce before payment of the new salary. He understands that the workforce we have now is not even enough, but I am not holding a brief for the governor.

“I cannot tell you now the total number of workers in the government employ, it is only the Office of the Head of Service that has such a figure. For now, I cannot preempt the government whether it will downsize, or if such an idea will be muted as a condition to pay the minimum wage. It is then that we will engage the governor on that, but for now, I do not foresee that.”

On the issue of ghost workers in the state’s civil service, the NLC chairman doubted such, stressing that the biometric capturing system put in place by the state government has made it almost impossible for such to exist in the state.

“For me, I have not seen anything like ghost workers in Akwa Ibom State until proven otherwise; I have not been informed of any, therefore, there is nothing like that.

Asked when the implementation of the new minimum wage would likely take off, the labour leader said, “the directive only came last week from the national leadership of the NLC in Enugu, that we should begin the process of engaging our state governors. We are in that process now. But as labour leaders, we are comfortable that our governor will pay the new minimum wage without sacking anybody.”

Addressing journalists recently, during the state Congress of the Nigerian Union of Journalist, the state Head of Service, Elder Effiong Essien, said that, “the Committee on the implementation of the new minimum wage in Akwa Ibom State, of which our governor was the first to set up, has been meeting. With the progress made in the negotiation, as soon as the template arrives, I can assure you that, our dear governor, in his usual magnanimity and sincere concern for workers’ welfare, will not hesitate to key into it.

“He has just recently approved the release of the 2017/2018 promotions and about 6,000 workers have moved to their next grade level. This amounts to additional income for the workers and a boost to the state’s economy. With this release, modalities for the 2019 promotion has commenced,” he added.

Corroborating the position of the state NLC Chairman, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Charles Udoh, confirmed the government’s readiness to meet the obligations of workers regarding the new minimum wage.

According to him, the state would commence the implementation as soon as the Federal Government starts the implementation for federal workers, noting that, Governor Udom Emmanuel, the accountant general of the state, himself and other key government officials, have at various occasions echoed the willingness of the state government to implement the new minimum wage.


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