Any governor that fails to pay the new Minimum Wage of N30,000 should be ready to have his state made ungovernable, including operators in the private sector of the economy, the organized labour has warned.
This warning from the leadership of the organised labour should not be considered as a mere threat as the new Minimum Wage is now backed by law unlike the just exited N18,000 wage, which though negotiated, was only based on mutual understanding and agreement.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President, Ayuba Wabba in an interview with Sunday Sun after the May Day ceremony on Wednesday in Abuja said that the workers have passed beyond the level where governors or any employer in the country could play God over the workers.
He said: ‘We thank God that we have passed that level, we have passed the bridge. Today, it is a law. If you don’t pay you have violated the law. There is provision for sanction; there is provision for us to take many actions, including taking the issue to court. Including demanding that you pay arrears. Clearly we have gone beyond the level of whether I can pay or I cannot pay.
“Every political office holder, including the governors have sworn to uphold the constitution and the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Therefore, anybody that does not pay has invariably violated the constitution and his oath of office and he should resign.”
The Minimum Wage law
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Minimum Wage bill into law on April 18, 2019. According to the Senior Special Assistant to Buhari on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, the implementation takes immediate effect and it is for all workers across the federation with exception of organisations with less than 25 staff. Buhari has assented to the Minimum Wage Repeal and Enactment Act 2019.
The assent makes it compulsory for all employers of labour in Nigeria to pay to their workers the sum of N30,000. And this excludes persons who are employing less than 25 workers, persons who work in a ship, which sails out of jurisdiction and other persons who are in other kinds of regulated employment which are accepted by the Act.
The law also gives the workers the right to accept salary that is less than N30,000, right to sue employer to recover the balance, as well as authorises the Minister of Labour and any person nominated by the Minister of Labour or any person designated by the Minister of Labour in any ministry, department or agency to, on the worker’s behalf, take action in the worker’s name against such employer to recover the balance of the employee wages.
The new law also ensures and mandates National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission and the Minister of Labour, to be the chief and principal enforcers of the provisions of this law.
Similarly, the law applies to all agencies, persons and bodies throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In spite of the provision of the law, Wabba said that labour is not oblivious that some employers and state government may still prove difficult, but added that Labour equally has a back up to bring them to submission.
“Clearly going forward is about the normal tradition that we are going to engage states that refused to pay. We are not treading this part for the first time, we will continue to do that and nothing that has been given to workers was given to them on a platter of gold.
“We are not under any illusion that any recalcitrant governor or any recalcitrant employer will give workers the Minimum Wage on the platter of gold. The law is there, but we have to do engagement and we will do that vigorously and with all our ability to make sure that Nigerian workers benefit from this little increase,” he said.
Reacting to the fact that some states like Zamfara which presently pays N7,500 even when N18,000 was Minimum Wage and may not be able to pay N30,000, the labour leader said: “The issue of Zamfara is not essentially about lack of resources, it’s about priority. We have a time in this country when Zamfara workers were earning the highest salary, when the Minimum Wage was N5,500 during the former governor, but now we have somebody that is irresponsible and, therefore, he has reduced governance to personal issue. No wonder you can see insecurity going on in Zamfara. Before, people sleep with peace in Zamfara, but you have seen this because of inequality, because of deprivations, because of poverty, you can see what is going on now.
“So, we cannot celebrate such people. We will take the issue state by state, one after the other and engage them. But the issue of Zamfara essentially is not the issue of lack of resources. No, it’s about what the present governor prioritizes. You will remember he is one of the people that are against the minimum wage.
“We shut down Zamfara for eight weeks, even the traditional rulers, the market women had to plead with us. The whole state was at standstill. No doubt the workers there must be celebrated, they have done their best. The narrative has changed now, even election issues now are tied to Minimum Wage. He would have contested election, but he cannot win, we would have defeated him.”
Explaining on how labour would launch out offensive against recalcitrant employers and state governors that fail to comply, Wabba stated that there are processes and procedures to follow.
“First, after signing into law, then it would be gazetted, then after it goes to Justice, Secretary to the Government of Federation (SGF) and Salary and Wages Commission who would release enabling circular to ministries and agencies. That is the instrument that is required for us to do engagement at all levels,” he said.
The United Labour Congress (ULC) at its May Day Rally in Lagos equally threatened industrial action against private employers or states who fail to reflect the changes immediately.
In a short speech, the President of ULC, Comrade Joe Ajaero affirmed that the Akwa-Ibom State government has commenced the payment of N30,000 minimum wage, and that others didn’t have a choice, but to pay.
Speaking on the 2019 Worker’s Day message theme, “Reflect, Organise, Engage”, Ajaero said that the implementation phase of the law is a critical stage that should be backed by dogged demand for compliance from all employers.
The Civil Service Union (NCSU), an affiliate of NLC, during the pre-May Day rally warned that it would occupy any state that refuses to pay the new Minimum Wage by the end of May.
President of the union, and National Vice President of the NLC, Amaechi Uchechukwu said that the focus of the union henceforth would be on the implementation of the new Minimum Wage.
The NCSU President said: “We expect the money to be paid by the end of May 2019. The problem we have is with the state governors because some of them will not want to pay. We have asked them to cut down on their excesses to accommodate workers welfare.
“We will occupy any state that refuses to pay at the end of May. It will be war between organised labour and any state that fails to implement it by the end of May 2019.
“They must pay the arrears of April and full May salaries because the new Minimum Wage was signed on April 18, 2018 and it took effect on that day.
“On the part of the Federal Government, we do not have any problem, but we are ready to engage state government on this matter.”
Calls for implementation
Bearing in mind that some states are yet to even implement the N18,000, which has since elapsed in 2015, members of the Organised Labour, OPS, and other Nigerians have reiterated the need for the Federal Government to ensure the implementation, especially in the states.
Labour in the same vein tasked the forthcoming 9th National Assembly to ensure implementation in the states.
The NLC said it was calling for the immediate implementation of the law, given the fact that the process has dragged on for nearly two years.
It also urged the employers, particularly federal and state governments, to commence immediate negotiations with the appropriate unions on the impact of the new law on the wage structure with a view to timely and judiciously carry out the implementation.
The President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama also said that the organised labour appreciates the approval of the new wage, but noted that its gains have been eroded by inflation, adding that prices of commodities have gone up even when employers have not commenced the payment.
Comrade Kaigama said: “The N30,000 monthly National Minimum Wage that we are even asking for to a family of six actually amounts to less than N50 per meal per person. It is exclusive of utility bills, school fees, etc.
“Given our extended family system as Africans, we are also expected to once in a while extend hands of fellowship to parents, in-laws, relations, friends who have lost their jobs, brothers and people of the same faith.”
He, therefore, called on the 9th Assembly and well meaning Nigerians to prevail on governors to pay workers their salaries and pension to pensioners as when due to avoid crisis in the industrial sector.
The Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), the umbrella body of the employers, equally said that it believes that the implementation date would be the date of assent.
It, however, advised employers to note the date of implementation and seek further clarification, when in doubt.
Shedding light on the conclusions of the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage, the NECA Director General, Timothy Olawale affirmed that “the National Minimum Wage is not a general salary increase, but a wage below which no employer should pay. As such, employers who are already paying above N30,000 are not obligated to comply. In the same vein, we expect other social partners to also respect this understanding, so as not to jeopardize the industrial harmony in the Private Sector by insisting on implementation by organizations already paying above N30,000.”
He reiterated the commitment of employers in the private sector to the implementation of the new National Minimum Wage.
President Women Arise for Change Initiative, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, though commending the president still expressed reservation on the payment, adding that it is coming at a time when several states in the country have battled over the last couple of years to pay the previous N18,000 minimum wage.
She said: “It is my hope that the states and employers within the private sector will commence an immediate implementation of the new minimum wage.
“It is also important to remind ourselves that the N30,000 minimum wage remains insufficient for our workers when we consider the inflation rate in our country and the prevailing economic realities.
Adjusting civil servants salaries
Workers under the umbrella of Trade Union Side (TUS) of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC) also on Thursday implored the Federal Government to take urgent steps to kick-start negotiation with the Joint Council on the issue of consequential adjustments arising from the new National Minimum Wage.
The Chairman of the TUS, Comrade Abdrafiu Alani Adeniji, and the Secretary, Comrade Alade Bashir Lawal, emphasized that now that the N30,000 monthly minimum wage bill has been signed into law, millions of workers, especially civil servants, were hopeful that implementation of the new salaries would commence immediately.
“This is the more reason we urge the Federal Government to immediately meet with the Trade Union Side of the Joint Council to work out the consequential adjustments and produce a fresh salary structure in line with the new National Minimum Wage,” the union stated.
According to the labour leaders, the normal practice is that once a new minimum wage is fixed, a fresh salary table is generated so that employees in all salary grade levels will benefit from the new emoluments.
“This is the standard practice all over the world and Nigeria should not be an exception,” they added.