Frank Ikpefan, Abuja and Toba Agboola
Organized labour has commenced mobilization of workers in 15 states of the federation for a strike to press home demand for the full implementation of the new minimum wage of N30,000.
The states, according to labour sources, are yet to demonstrate enough commitment in keying into the new dispensation.
The bone of contention in most of the states is the consequential adjustment of the new salary structure.
Sources said labour leaders had been placed on standby for an industrial action.
The states were given up till on Friday to conclude negotiation on the matter.
But The Nation gathered last night that many of the affected states were making frantic efforts to avert a showdown with workers.
The states are: Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Enugu, Imo, Anambra, Cross River, Zamfara, Gombe, Taraba, Niger, Plateau, Kogi, Kwara, and Nasarawa.
Some of the governors started negotiations a few days before the original deadline of December 31, 2019 set by labour.
But when it dawned on labour that some of the states had not gone far in their negotiation with their members, a grace period of one month was given to the governors by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to wrap up negotiations.
Although, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State started paying the new minimum wage, especially for the low cadre of workers last October, negotiation with labour on consequential adjustment for other categories of workers is still on.
Secretary-General of TUC, Comrade Musa-Lawal Ozigi, in an interview, said on Friday that the union was expecting feedback from all the states on the implementation of the minimum wage.
Ozigi said state council chairmen of the TUC would turn in their reports tomorrow.
According to him, the National Administrative Council (NAC) led by its President, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, would meet any moment from now to assess compliance by state governors.
He said the NAC would then decide the next line of action after the review of reports from its state councils.
The secretary-general said the union was ready for “recalcitrant governors” who fail to implement the new wage for workers in their states.
Ozigi said: “We gave them (state governors) January 31 to implement and so far, we are compiling our results. Anytime from now, the NEC will meet to decide what to do with each of the states that has not complied.
“The January 31 was a grace period for them (state governors) to have done that (implement the minimum wage) and they have not done it. Those ones that have not done it, the NAC is meeting to decide what to do in each of those states.
“Already, all our state council members have been put on notice. Having done the assessment by the NAC meeting, of course any action can be taken in any of the states that is still faulting.
“The President of the TUC and the council (NAC) will meet to take that decision but we are still working on it.
“All we want to do is to get feedback from all the states. We are waiting for all the states to get the report by tomorrow then NAC will meet to take the next decision.
“All the state councils are on alert, waiting for direction from the NAC headed by the president.”
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President Ayuba Wabba, could not be reached for comments yesterday.
However, an NLC source said that the union has fixed its own NAC meeting for Tuesday,February 4, 2020 in Abuja where a final decision on the implementation of the minimum wage will be taken.
The highly placed source said state council chairmen of the NLC had been placed on alert ahead of the final decision of the NAC.
The source said the NLC will use the meeting to “firm up a line of action on what to be done to recalcitrant governors who are yet to begin payment of the new wage.”
The source also said that affiliate unions in the states had been mobilized to ensure that the proposed strike was total and effective.
Mixed feelings in Ebonyi State
Civil servants in Ebonyi State have mixed feelings over the payment of N30,000 new minimum wage by the state government.
Many of them already earning over N30,000 are disappointed that the adjustments to their salaries are far below their expectations.
A civil servant in the state who pleaded for anonymity described the increase in his salary as a drop in the ocean and not a living wage.
He said, “they said it is a minimum wage, but to us, it is not. It is just a little increment.”
Information and State Orientation Commissioner, Orji Uchenna Orji, had told newsmen in Abakaliki that the payment was in accordance with the agreement reached with the NLC.
But efforts to contact the state NLC chairman, Comrade Leonard Nkah, for comment were unsuccessful as at the time of filing this report.
Anambra pledges to meet new deadline
Anambra State Information and Public Enlightenment Commissioner Don Adinuba, said the state was still negotiating with organized labour.
According to him, adequate funds have been set aside to start immediate implementation once negotiation is concluded.
Adinuba said: “We have stated officially that we are ready to start paying from January. You know we are still negotiating with the workers’ union. We just came back from Christmas and New Year holidays. So, we are still negotiating, but we are ready to start paying from January. We have provided enough funds to start payment from January.”
Commenting on the matter, the Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the state, Jerry Nnubia, confirmed that negotiation was still ongoing. He said that the committee was only waiting for Governor Willie Obiano, to return from his trip so that it could wrap up the negotiation.
Government, labour also still negotiating in Osun
Osun State Finance Commissioner Bola Oyebamiji said that a negotiation committee had been put in place to work out payment modalities.
He added that as soon as the committee concluded its assignment, government’s position on the new wage would be made public.
“Osun State government has not had any difficulty in paying the old minimum wage. Rather, it has been paying as and when due. Salaries are being paid promptly without any problem,” Oyebamiji said.
“The new minimum wage is a law that government must obey. However, we have a joint negotiation committee that would decide on the modalities for payment. Once the committee concludes its assignment, the government’s position on the new wage will be made public.”
A civil servant who spoke on the condition of anonymity, however, said that implementation of the new minimum wage in the state was akin to putting the cart before the horse.
He said government should first promote workers who ought to have been elevated over the years and complete payment of salary arrears before talking about the new minimum wage.
“If a worker has been on level 9 for years and has qualified for promotion, the new minimum wage will still reflect the level 9 and this will be cheating. So, it is better for the government to first of all approve promotions before we start talking about new minimum wage, which has to reflect the promotion,” he said.
Consequential salary adjustments causing ripples in Oyo
The main problem in Oyo State is the consequential adjustment of the salaries of those earning above N30,000 before the new national minimum wage came into being.
It was gathered that the minimum wage committee held its third meeting recently, but the parties failed to reach a compromise on the consequential adjustments across board for workers.
Chairman of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr Olusola Ogundiran, who also chairs the Joint Public Service Negotiating Council (JNC) in the state, said: “Negotiation is still ongoing. We are working out the percentages for the consequential adjustments and we are sure the committee will conclude its sittings as soon as possible.
“But I must state that there is nothing we are negotiating about the national minimum wage because it has already become a law. Any state that refuses to pay the N30,000 minimum wage will have to contend with the labour movement.”
Ogundiran stated that if the National Minimum Wage Act increased the minimum wage in Oyo State from N18,000 to N30,000, the workers on Grade Level Seven that are probably receiving N31,000, should also have their salaries adjusted consequentially, saying: “He should not still be on the N31,000 salary any longer.”
Efforts to get comments from Adeosun, chairman of the committee, and Commissioner for Finance, Mr Akinola Ojo, as well as the Chairman of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Bayo Titilola-Sodo, did not yield positive results as they could not be reached as at the time of filing this report.
Bayelsa government, labour union reach agreement
The Bayelsa State government and labour have reached an agreement on the payment of the new minimum wage.
Consequently, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson has ordered payment of the N30,000 minimum wage to workers in the state with effect from this last month.
Dickson directed the state’s financial team to follow through the template set by the National Wages and Income Commission in implementing the new salary level.
He said: “I gave you people a commitment that we are not (in principle) opposed to the payment of the N30,000 new national minimum wage. Today, I have made good that promise.
“Under normal circumstances, there is nothing we pay our hard working employees that should be considered too much. I cannot thank you enough for the support, cooperation, understanding and patriotism you displayed to my administration in the past eight years, particularly during the period of the economic recession. My expectation is that the organized labour will extend this understanding and cooperation to the incoming government.”
The State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade John Ndiomu and his Trade Union Congress counterpart, Mr Layi Julius, commended Dickson for the decision of the government to pay the new minimum wage.
Niger set to pay minimum wage, may defer action on consequential adjustments
Niger State Finance Commissioner Zakari Abubakar, said in Minna recently that government had made provision for the payment of N30,000 minimum wage to civil servants in the state in the 2020 budget.
He said the implementation of the minimum wage would commence once the fiscal estimate was passed by the House of Assembly and assented to by the governor.
He, however, declined to be categorical when the minimum wage payment would commence.
He merely said: “this is the 2020 budget; everything in the budget will be implemented in 2020.
“We are already paying N22,500, what we need now is N7,500.We have taken care of that in the budget”.
Governor Abubakar Sani Bello separately told the 25 local government chairmen and other party stakeholders who paid him a solidarity visit in Minna that the state government would commence the payment of the new national minimum wage last month.
Governor Bello said that a committee had been set up on the matter and that considerable progress had been made in the ongoing negotiation to begin the implementation of the new minimum wage.
According to him, those that are not directly affected by the N30, 000 minimum wage would be taken care of in the next phase which is the consequential adjustment.
Organized labour in the state had threatened the state government with an industrial action over the delay in the implementation of the minimum wage.
Rising from it emergency State Executive Council (SEC) meeting in Minna on the 10th of January, the labour union handed a 21-day ultimatum to the state government to pay the 30,000 new minimum wage or face an indefinite strike.
Minimum wage implementation done deal in Gombe – Finance Commissioner
Gombe State Finance Commissioner Muhammad Gambo Magaji called the implementation of the new national minimum wage as a done deal in the state.
”It is a responsibility of the government to pay salaries and ensure workers’ welfare. We will not run away from that responsibility,” Magaji said in Gombe while briefing reporters on the state’s 2020 budget breakdown
Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya was quoted in a statement issued by his senior media aide, Ismaila Uba Misilli that his administration would continue to deepen the existing industrial harmony and cordial relationship with workers in the state with a view to improving productivity and ensuring good governance.
Nigeria Labour Congress President Ayuba Wabba, speaking at the opening session of the 2020 Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council Meeting (JNPSNC), in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State, recently described governors foot dragging on the payment of the new minimum wage as recalcitrant and black sheep.
Wabba, who was represented by the NLC Chairman, Bayelsa State, Bipre Ndiomu, commended the Federal Government for ensuring swift and seamless implementation.
He said: ”We cannot say the same for some state governments, which have refused to negotiate with workers at the state levels for consequential adjustments in salaries and payment of the new national minimum wage.
“In fact, a few states are yet to even set up negotiating committees for the consequential salary adjustments. This is completely unacceptable to workers. We can assure the handful of the recalcitrant state governors that the leadership of the organized labour is keenly monitoring the development in their states and we would soon prove that we mean business with our last ultimatum on this matter.
“We do not need to keep reminding the black sheep state governments that the payment of the new minimum wage is backed with the force of the law. There is no denying it. There is no escaping it. You must pay and when you pay you must pay in arrears.
“As for the consequential adjustments in salaries, we will resist any attempt by any state government to unilaterally award stipends to workers. Just as the example had been set by the Federal Government, the consequential adjustments in salaries must be a product of tripartism, social dialogue and negotiations.”
The new wage bill was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in April 2019.
The Federal Government and organized labour agreed on consequential adjustments on October 18, 2019, after a lengthy negotiation