The battle line is now drawn between the government and workers over the implementation or otherwise of the minimum wage as the President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Quadri Olaleye, directed all states affiliates to begin mobilisation, for possible industrial action.
According to him, the governors of these states and their supporters would be held responsible for whatever happens after January 31.
His words: “The Congress advises all state governments that have not complied with the implementation and immediate payment of the N30, 000.00 new National Minimum Wage to commence negotiations and implementation” immediately!
This is the outcome of its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting last week where states yet to commence the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage by January 31, 2020 deadline, were threatened with shut down without notice.
Recall that when President Muhammodu Buhari signed the new Minimum Wage of N30,000 into law last April , it was well celebrated by the Nigerian workers. Though workers did not deceive themselves that the payment would be stress free, but the attendant sufferings prelude to the implementation almost a year after its approval, is what they never bargained for. The Federal Government after much threat and confrontations finally concluded the consequential adjustment of the new wage with the federal workers last October. However, the implementation only took off with the December salary. The President at the signing had assured workers that the new salary would take off in April, which the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige , equally re-emphasised at the conclusion of the consequential adjustment that the arrears from April would be paid.
At the concluding meeting of the consequential adjustment at the federal level, the Labour minister had instructed that each of the state councils would have to negotiate with their respective governments. Buhari, in the same vein, emphatically said that for workers in the country to enjoy the Yuletide, all negotiations should be wrapped up before December 31, 2019. The labour movements had keyed into the President’s instruction and mandated all the state councils to commence negotiation and end it by December 31. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) specifically warned that states that failed to conclude negotiation by December 31 risked industrial action.
However, as at the end of December deadline, and till now, only six states have concluded negotiation and commenced implementation. The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, in the table showing states and their negotiation status, shared with Daily Sun, listed, Adamawa, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kebbi and Lagos as states that had concluded negotiation and commenced implementation before December 11, 2019. Four states, Borno, Bauchi, Katsina and Kano concluded before December 31, 2019, and are awaiting Implementation, while Kano topped the wage by N300 to arrive N30,300.
However, 22 states, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Benue, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Ogun are still negotiating. Others, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara still negotiating also, but hopeful of concluding it before the end of January. States yet to constitute negotiating committee, according to NLC, are Cross River, smarting from kidnap of the state chairman; Kogi, and Taraba Council has written to the state government, but yet to get response.
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) at its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting last week has threatened states yet to commence implementation of the N30,000 Minimum Wage by January 31, 2020 deadline, that they would be shut down without notice.
The President of TUC, Quadri Olaleye, said the union has directed all their states affiliates to begin mobilisation, saying that the governors and their supporters will be held responsible for whatever happen after 31of January.
He said, “The Congress advises all state governments who have not complied with the implementation and immediate payment of the N30, 000.00 new National Minimum Wage to commence negotiations and implementation on or before 31st January, 2020, otherwise the State Government should be responsible for the consequences of their failure.
According to Olaleye, the report from states showed that so far only six states have signed and commenced implementation, while 15 states are in the process of negotiation, and the rest are yet to commence negotiation.
“We want to assure them this is not an empty threat. Labour will shut down any states that have not yet started the implementation or negotiation, “ Olaleye said.
He said, “It’s an insubordination for the governors to flout the President’s order on the implementation of the new Minimum Wage. The President had said that all the federal and all states should have commenced the implementation of N30,00 Minimum Wage by 31st December, 2019. So if there’s still any state yet to commence payment that is clear insubordination and we will not hesitate to shut such state. This is not an empty threat, neither are we going back on our decision.”
Speaking in the same line, the Global Vice President for African and Arab nations of the Public Service International (PSI), Peters Adeyemi, said labour would have to shut down some states for them to pay minimum wage.
He noted that the rascality of some of the governors would not make them comply with the deadline from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), hence the shutdown is inevitable.
Adeyemi, who is also the General Secretary of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, (NASU) reasoned that in the history of salary increase, workers have never been paid minimum wage without struggle.
He said, “The tradition has always been that states will remain adamant, states will remain incorrigible, states will remain stubborn, they continue to tell lies that they don’t have the resources to pay.”
The NLC General Secretary, Emma Ugboaja, said the congress has set machinery in motion to receive and analyse reports from each state on the progress made on the minimum wage negotiations.
“We are taking reports from our various councils and we are analyzing the reports because they vary; we are not going to have a uniform response to all states. We will take each state based on the kind of report we get from that particular state. Once we finish analysing the various scenarios we have, we will roll out actions on each state according to the nature of discrepancy we are seeing in implementation.
“We have not extended the ultimatum and we are not doing that. The deadline is over, but we are only being sure that we do not hurt a process that has already been concluded or being concluded. But we must fish out the exact places where we have clear challenge,” he said.
Workers have considered it unfortunate the multifarious taxes being hurled at them in spite the fact that the N30,000 is yet to materialise. From the VAT to the electricity tariff increase, inflation that cut across all essential goods and services.
Adeyemi lamented that welfare of Nigerian workers in recent times have been terribly bad.
“I don’t know how Nigerian workers have been able to survive. That’s the truth. Nigerian workers have not been fairly treated in all ramifications. I think Nigerian workers are just struggling to survive while the politicians are having field day.
“How will a worker survive with N30,000. Meanwhile, those who are in the position of responsibility to pay the N30,000 are saying it’s not possible. We are in a state of hopelessness and I pray our government, both at the state and federal will not push the Nigerian workers to the wall because to push an hungry man to the wall, he would fight back. I pray that they would not do that.
“In fact, they have further even aggravated the poverty of the masses by this announcement of the so called N30,000 because everything have gone up.
“The cost of buying foodstuff have gone up. The cost of transportation has gone up, the cost of virtually everything. Electricity, even though without light has gone up. So it’s heartbreaking. It’s not a situation that can last for too long before an average worker will then have no reason, because it is when you are fairly treated that you will even do the job. If you don’t have the resources to maintain your home, even when you are on the job, your mind will not be there.”
Mr. Segun David, the National President, Chemical and Non-Metallic Products Senior Staff Association of Nigeria(CANMPSSAN), equally stated that the impact of the economy in the last one year on the workforce, the companies and generally the sector, is not far fectched. He lamented that there are so many challenges which the unions have been trying to manage.
He said, “The prices of goods have significantly gone up and the salary is not increasing. When we talk about the minimum wage, it does not make much effect on the entire workforce. For instance, only two percent of the entire workforce will enjoy the minimum wage because that represent the civil servants. It has nothing to do with us in this sector.
“The prices of goods and services have gone up because of the inflation, tax. And recently, the Federal Government added another increase in VAT. Just last month, many of our member companies have gone under. Some have to move out of the country. For Instance, Cadbury now outsourced. The bulk of their products have been transferred to another company. The same thing with IPWA. The company has been shut down for close to two years now. The management is at large. No gratuity, pensions for the workers. These are some of the challenges.”
Though the Senate has assured Nigerians that the implementation of the 2.5 per cent increase in the Value Added Tax from February 1 will not affect the purchasing powers of an average Nigerians because the increment was targeted at luxury items, but that the power distribution firms across the country plan to reflect the new Value Added Tax of 7.5 from February 1 is contradictory.
Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company confirmed last week that it would implement an upward review in the prices of meters sold to customers under the Meter Asset provider scheme introduced in 2019.
Head, Branding and Corporate Communication at IBEDC, Mrs Angela Olarenwaju, said, a single-phase meter which used to cost N38, 325 (VAT inclusive) would now cost N39, 237.50 (VAT inclusive). Similarly, the a three-phase meter which used to cost N70, 350 (VAT inclusive) will now costs N72, 025.00 ( VAT inclusive) The IBEDC spokesperson said that subsequently, the meter service charge on MAP payment by instalment would also be reviewed to accommodate the new VAT charge.
IBEDC management pointed out that VAT on tariffs had been adjusted to accommodate the new 7.5 per cent rate.