News

November 3, 2019

Implementation of Minimum Wage: Knotty issues in states

By Victor Ahiuma-Young

 

THE battle for implementation of the N30, 000 new national minimum wage has commenced across Nigeria’s 36 states.

At the federal level, Federal Executive Council, FEC, has given December as the deadline for implementation sequel to the successful negotiation of the consequential adjustment at the wee hours of Friday, October 18, 2019.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Government adjusts salaries of military, other security personnel

Recall that the new minimum wage was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 18, 2019, repealing the law that brought about the outlawed N18, 000 national minimum wage.

Ahead of implementation, state governments and organised labour are expected to meet on a state-by-state level to agree on the consequential adjustment as it affects each state based on its peculiarity.

READ ALSO: Nigeria in minimum wage strike frenzy(Opens in a new browser tab)

Baseline

Though labour is on the exclusive legislative list, the powers of the federal government end with setting the baseline which had been done through the tripartite minimum wage committee.

Already, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has directed its state councils to work with social partners to ensure effective implementation of the new model across states.

NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, in a statement titled: “It is victory for all workers,” on October 18, 2019, after the agreement had been signed, said among others, “all employers of labour in the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, as well as the Organised Private Sector, OPS, are expected to complete the implementation process of the new national minimum wage and consequential wage adjustment forthwith.

“State Councils of the Nigeria Labour Congress are hereby directed to offer leadership and work harmoniously with the TUC and Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, JNPSNC, and all unions to ensure effective implementation of the new national minimum wage and the consequential salary adjustment that must be reached through a process of collective bargaining.”

Not yet Uhuru

Bearing in mind the battle ahead, Wabba again, while addressing participants at the just concluded retreat for all levels of NLC leaders including affiliate unions, at Nike Lake Resorts, Enugu, insisted that it is not yet Uhuru over the new minimum wage.

He said: “I must congratulate all of us for the recent upward adjustment in salaries consequent on the new national minimum wage. Our collective diligence and persistence will put smiles on the faces of millions of Nigerian workers and take many families out of poverty. But I must charge us that it is not Uhuru yet. We call on all our state councils to offer the needed leadership and work harmoniously with the Trade Union Congress, TUC, and the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, JNPSNC, to ensure effective implementation of the new national minimum wage and consequential salary adjustment which must be reached through a process of collective bargaining.

“While commending state governments that have already commenced implementation of the new national minimum wage, we urge that the implementation should be a product of collective bargaining in line with International Labour Organisation, ILO, Convention 98 on Organising and Collective Bargaining. We also implore all employers of labour to ensure that the necessary formalities for smooth implementation of the negotiated salaries based on the new national minimum wage are carried out diligently.”

Industrial unrest

While some states will have an easy ride in the implementation, many will no doubt be forced to implement through industrial unrest.

While states like Lagos, Rivers, Delta, Kano, and Akwa Ibom, among others, can afford to pay more than N30, 000 minimum wage to their least paid workers, it is illegal for any state to pay below N30, 000 to its least paid workers.

Further findings by Sunday Vanguard, showed that about 10 states owe arrears of salaries and other benefits from the outlawed N18, 000 minimum wage.

Among the states, Zamfara was singled out for not implementing the N18.000 national minimum wage.

According to investigations, Abia State owes teachers up to six months arrears, while council workers and others are owed between six and two months arrears.

Similarly, Adamawa State owes some categories of workers like secretariat staff, nurses and midwives, and secondary school teachers various months of unpaid salaries and other benefits.

For Bayelsa State, secondary school teachers are owed three months arrears of salaries, while primary school teachers are owed seven months arrears of the outlawed N18, 000 minimum wage.

Five months arrears

While Benue State still owes its workers not less than five months arrears, its Imo State counterpart owes only the shortfalls from the previous government.

In Kogi State, the government owes its “verified” workers about two months arrears of which 10 percent is being paid monthly in line with an agreement with organised labour.

However, the fate of workers not yet verified still hangs in the balance pending when they are cleared.

Also in Kwara State, the government owes some members of staff of its media organisations about three months’ salaries.

Teachers are owed certain percentages of salaries between 2016 and 2018.

Statutory deductions

In Ondo State, one-month unpaid salary left by the previous government is still pending. Its Ekiti State counterpart owes council workers six months, and civil servants, three months.

In the same vein, Osun State government owes its civil servants from levels 8 – 13 nine months arrears and those from levels 14 -16 are being owed 14 months. Ogun State owes its workers several arrears of promotions, leave bonuses, and statutory deductions among others.

Taraba State still owes about two months’ salary arrears to its teachers left behind by the previous government.

Meanwhile, to ensure that leaders of the organised labour at the state level negotiate the consequential adjustment, Sunday Vanguard gathered that a meeting of those that would drive negotiations on the aegis of JNPSNC has been summoned for November 5, 2019.

One of the leaders of public-sector unions at the federal level told Sunday Vanguard that the meeting “is to prepare those that will be involved in the negotiations, guide them and share information on how to go about the negotiations for the consequential adjustment at the states levels.”

No pay no work

Counselling the organised labour on how to enforce full implementation of the N30,000 new national minimum wage, an Ibadan based expert in Labour law and human rights activist, Mr Femi Aborishade, urged labour to use “no pay no work”, to deal with recalcitrant state governors or private employers that refuses to pay.

The former lecturer at Ibadan Polytechnic, said: “The common refrain by employers, including governments and the private sector employers when workers are on strike is “no work no pay”. Therefore, nonpayment of the minimum wage or the consequential increases in pay for levels 7 above should be met with “no pay, no work.”

“In other words, nonpayment should be confronted with strike, not only in the non-paying state but indeed, on a national scale, to compel the recalcitrant states to pay in accordance with the Minimum Wage Act and the consequential agreement between organised labour on the one hand, state governments, federal government and the private sector employers on the other.

“In the event of nonpayment of the minimum wage, labour should call pre-strike peaceful mass meetings and rallies at individual local factory levels, local government levels, state levels, and lastly, a one-day nationwide mass meetings everywhere in the country, before embarking on the nationwide strike. The purpose of the pre-strike mass meetings at local levels is collective education on the imperative of insisting on the payment of the minimum wage.

“The N30,000 minimum wage represents only a 66 per cent increase in the minimum wage. Not only this, there are no penalties for withdrawal and for making bank deposits. There is a 50 naira tax for every PoS transaction. There are threats of restoration of toll gates that were removed in the past to justify fuel price increases. The federal government has introduced other punitive measures on the income of ordinary people.

“Whereas the federal and state governments have failed to commence the payment of minimum wage, a huge chunk of 1.2 percent of the 2020 budget or N125billion is allocated to the National Assembly alone.

Shrouded in secrecy

“This figure is higher than N112 billion allocated for Universal Basic Education, UBE. This abnormality does not take into reckoning the fact that not less than 14 million children of school age are out of school due to poverty. Indeed, the details of the salaries and allowances, including the running costs of the executive arm of government are shrouded in secrecy.

“Nonpayment of minimum wage and consequential increases in the salaries of levels 7 and above should be resisted with the battle cry of “no pay, no work”. The strike is the last resort and the only effective language employers, characteristically, understand, not only in Nigeria but indeed, internationally. Only the workers, through mass and peaceful strike actions, can save themselves from physical extinction as a result of the debilitating effects of anti-ordinary people policies.”

Vanguard