May 25, 2024

Labour divided over Anambra’s minimum wage status


Governor Charles Soludo of Anambra

By Vincent Ujumadu, Awka

THE national leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its Anambra State branch, are sharply divided over the status of the state in the implementation of the current N30,000 minimum wage. While appearing as a guest on Arise News Channel, the head of information of the NLC, Comrade Benson Upah described Anambra as the worst state in the payment of minimum wage.

“It’s the state that pays the least minimum wage. The national minimum wage is not synonymous with the pay structure of the state. While each state pays according to its capacity and pay structure, a situation, for instance, where a Level 14 officer in Benue State earns more than a Level 16 officer in Anambra State is absurd

”I am waiting for anybody to say that what I’m saying is a lie. Anambra does not value its workers or the dignity of labour. So, it is one of the states that are observing the minimum wage law in breach and that is why we have asked the state’s workers to mobilize for action,” he said.

But a former chairman of NLC in the state, Comrade Godwin Osisioma, who was given the right of reply by the same television station to speak on behalf of the state government, admitted that although the state might be paying less minimum wage than some states in the country, it is matching other states in terms of total pay package.

“Yes, the take home package for Anambra State is lower than few states, but because it is a law, every state is queueing in. During the last regime in the state, an agreement was reached and there was directive to implement the minimum wage structure, hence the minimum wage is paid and everybody is happy. Not much time was wasted in the negotiation because it was a directive.

And when Soludo came on board, he began to implement what he met. The then SSG, who is still the SSG, wrote a letter that it should be implemented. With the letter and decision of government, the minimum wage law became effective in the state.

“As it stands, Anambra is not owing any worker and when Soludo came, he even increased their pay”, the former NLC chairman said.
Osisioma said although he was not defending the state government, he added that Soludo was prepared to address all the issues raised by the state leadership of NLC.

For the controversial Ndiolu Microfinance Bank where it was discovered that a lot of anomalies happened, he said the governor has set up a committee to look into it.

He added that the N24,000 which the NLC spokesman said Anambra is paying its workers is only the basic salary that is outside the allowances.
When reminded that the state is owing pension to the tune of N14 billion, Osisioma said Anambra is up to date with pensions payment.

“When Soludo came, he met pension arrears and decided to be paying from the day he assumed office. So, he’s not owing any pension to all those who retired since he came in, while still paying gradually those he inherited. He even pays pensions before paying salary and salaries are paid before the end of every month.

“There is a good relationship between labour and government in Anambra State. He paid the accumulated wage bill owed to the Defunct Water Corporation workers,” he stated.

Although he admitted that Nigerian workers are not well paid, Osisioma said the NLC minimum wage demand of N615,000, which was later reduced to N497,000, is unrealistic.

As the NLC spokesman was accusing the state of breaching the minimum wage law, Anambra NLC chairman, Humphrey Nwafor and other labour officials were in Awka praising Governor Chukwuma Soludo for meeting their needs. In fact, when Nwafor emerged from the meeting with Governor Soludo, he was beaming with smiles, which was an indication that he had struck a favourable deal with the governor.

Later when he addressed reporters along with representatives of the state government, Nwafor said government and the organized labour in the state had resolved the issue of the state’s minimum wage for its workforce.

The marathon meeting with the labour took place at the Government House and was led by Governor Soludo himself, while Nwafor led the labour side. At the end of the four hours meeting, Nwafor said all the seven points raised by labour were discussed and thrashed, and that a tripartite committee would be set up to smoothen the grey areas.

Nwafor said: “ It was a very successful meeting. All the executive members of NLC and TUC participated in the meeting. Among the highlights were suspension of the contributory pensions, including those in the local government areas. He has also set up a committee to investigate why monies deducted from workers were not remitted and the committee will report back to the government in eight weeks.

“Before now, we thought the minimum wage was based on the basic salary, but with the laws we have seen, it is now clear that the minimum wage is based on take home and going by that, it is clear that Anambra has been complying with the provisions of the law.”

According to him, it would have been a different thing if Anambra has workers on grade level one, but the state doesn’t have that.
He said the governor has also set up another committee that will look into the issue of increasing the wages for workers and the committee will comprise of NLC, TUC, NULGE, as well as government officials, including the accountant general of the state.

“So we’re happy that this is resolved and we are happy with Mr. Governor. Also a committee has been set up on the Ndiolu Microfinance Bank, which will be submitted very soon,” he said.

The Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Prof Solo Chukwulobelu , who was part of the meeting, recalled that there was so much tension before the meeting began, expressing joy that everything was resolved.

He said from the law, it was discovered that Anambra State is fully compliant, adding that the governor has further set up another committee which he, the SSG, will chair to anticipate the outcome of the national minimum wage discussion across the country.
“It will take a long time for the outcome to be ready and the joint committee of government and labour will surely come up with an acceptable wage structure for Anambra State, “ the SSG said.

The state Head of Service, Lady Theodora Igwegbe was also elated following the outcome of the meeting.

“I’m both for the government side and somehow with the labour because I’m the foremost civil servant in the state. So my people are the beneficiaries of the peaceful meeting. The good thing is that all the issues were peacefully resolved and we no longer have issues with labour activities in the state. We are very grateful to Mr. Governor for the way he handled all the issues and we appreciate the organized labour for the peaceful conduct”, the HOS said.
The major take home from the deliberations is that Governor Soludo will soon announce wage award and acceptable minimum wage for the workers together, as one committee is handling the two issues.

The issue of the reconstitution of the Judiciary Service Commission and the Civil Service Commission was also discussed and the governor similarly promised to announce their members as soon as possible.

As it stands, the workers are expectant and hopeful that the state would, never again, lag behind in the implementation of the minimum wage.