Bimbola Oyesola and James Ojo, Abuja
Organised labour, yesterday, vowed to cripple any state that failed to implement the consequential agreement it agreed with the Federal Government.
The labour movement, led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), told Daily Sun that the governors’ position, arrived after after a meeting of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), was not unexpected, but warned that it was equally prepared for them.
The 36 state governors, under the umbrella of the NGF, had on Monday said minimum wage consequential payments depended on the capacity of states.
Chairman of the NGF, Dr. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, after the meeting of the forum, said that even though the N30,000 minimum wage had been accepted, states would negotiate the consequential adjustment to be paid.
The governors said the new minimum wage agreement approved by the Federal Government with labour last week was not binding on the states. The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had last week directed the National Income and Wages Commission to forward the approved Federal Government template to state and local governments on an advisory basis as, according to it, the new minimum wage law was a federal law.
The FEC, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had also directed Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, to effect payment of the new wage on or before December 31.
Fayemi said at the end of a meeting of the NGF in Abuja that the FEC does not determine what happens in the states, noting that they had their own state executive councils that were the highest decision-making body at the state level.
Meanwhile, Simon Anchavar, who led the labour team to the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, reiterated that the minimum wage was a law already signed by the President.
“Since it is a law, the state governments must pay; first and foremost, they should declare how much they are collecting from their respective state revenue, then we will know if it is commensurable to pay minimum wage,” he said.
He, however, pointed out that there could be “give and take” during such talks with the states, once they disclosed their revenues. Such negotiations should be supervised by federal officials, he said.
As a results of the reaction of the governors, he said labour may have to meet on November 5 to address the joint councils at the various states.
He said, “We will give them templates that will guide them on the implementation, warning that labour is ready for shutdown.”
Labour explained that they were open to negotiations with the states, and would “welcome implementation that takes into consideration how much the various states earn monthly. Such talks mean states will first have to open their books and let Nigerians know how much they generate internally,” officials of labour said.
In his reaction, NLC general secretary, Emman Ugboaja, said labour would not take any excuse from the states as far as the implementation of the new wage in the states is concerned.
He said the union also shared in the position of the NGF on the fact that there must be negotiation of state workers with their governors but labour would resist unilateral pronouncements of some specific amount as increment as presently playing out in Kebbi and Kaduna states.
“We will resist attempts by any state just waking up and giving award as increase for workers. Everything has to be product of negotiation,” he said.
The NLC scribe said labour would also not accept the proposed negotiation to be based only on the Internal Generated Revenue (IGR) as the governors were projecting.
“For us, the negotiation will be based on all the money coming into the states. Is IGR the only money coming into the states, what happened to the security votes? Is security vote not part of it, the federal allocation, and other international funds? All these will be analysed and then we will see how far.”
Ugboaja said NLC was prepared for the states, hence it had inaugurated a separate committee to monitor the progress of negotiation in the states.
“We are ready for any state, it’s not going to be masters-servants relationship. We will ensure that all of them pay the new wage and none of our members will be shortchanged,” he stated.
Ugboaja said labour has overruled all the states where governors have begun implementation without negotiation.
In the same vein, chairman of TUC in Ogun State, Olubunmi Fajobi, said the focus was to get the governor to the negotiation table.
He also said workers in the states were not surprised by what the governors were saying, lamenting that the Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, has not responded to any of the three letters written to him in respect of the negotiation.
“All we know is that there is a benchmark that we are working with, so, whether the governor likes it or not, he will have to come to the table. We will look at the capacity they are talking about; we are workers, we also know the capacity of the state, and workers are united in our demands,” he said.
Fajobi said the state was only waiting for the meeting of the Joint Negotiation Council scheduled for Abuja next Tuesday to determine their next line of action.
“If the governor calls for negotiation before then we will oblige him, but if not after the meeting next week, we will let him know our position,” he said.
NLC chairman in Ebonyi State, Ikechukwu Nwafor, equally said the NGF would always come up with excuses not to pay, but warned that they would have no option but to respect the Minimum Wage law.
“We’ve known their body language from the time of our negotiation. But unfortunately for them, it is now a law that they have to respect, unlike the period of N18,000 when they paid whatever they like.
He warned that if any governor fails to respect the new minimum wage law, labour would have no option than to enforce implementation in its own traditional way of shutting down such state.
“By next week, we will write the governor on the agreement reached at the federal level, with the copy attached.
“The table for the consequential adjustment will also be sent to the state house immediately we get it from the headquarters.”