The organised labour in the country will soon come up with a strong position on the suspension of the payment of the wage award to civil servants and has warned the federal and state governments to prepare to increase the minimum wage from the current N30,000 monthly.
It also warned state governors that they would have no choice but to pay the minimum wage once it is signed into law next year.
Already, conversations are being held around the new minimum wage, which is expected to be signed into law soon. The Federal Government on its part has budgeted the sum of N1tn for minimum wage adjustments, promotion arrears and severance benefits for civil servants in its Ministries, Departments and Agencies, analysis of the 2024 appropriation budget released by the Budget Office of the Federation revealed.
However, state governments have largely remained silent on the issue of a new minimum wage for their workers, even in the face of escalating cost of living nationwide.
The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Idris Mohammed, said in an interview with Sunday PUNCH in Abuja that the current N30,000 minimum wage would expire at the end of March 2024.
The Federal Government’s team and the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council on October 18, 2019, agreed on the implementation of the N30,00 minimum wage after months of negotiations.
The Deputy President of the Trade Union Congress, Tommy Etim, told Sunday PUNCH that the body might resolve to embark on a prolonged industrial action during its next national executive council meeting.
He said in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Saturday, “At the last TUC NEC meeting, we called the government’s attention to the fact that stopping the payment of the wage award is not in the best interest of the government, because it is a recipe for industrial action; so, that alone is a signal.
“However, the government has not also invited us to tell us why they have not paid; so, we are waiting; if by the end of this month of December they have not paid, I can assure you that at the next meeting of NEC, there will be a resolution for an industrial action.
“Until the budget passes through the National Assembly and is enacted before Mr President assents to it. If it is assented to, there will be a supplementary budget to that effect (new minimum wage), so that is not an issue. When you look at the current inflation rate of about 28.2 per cent, no benchmark as of today can survive. So, it is not going to be based on a mere pronouncement of N500, 000 for instance.
“The negotiation for a new minimum wage will be based on socio-economic realities. That is what we are going to take to the table. We are going to look at all indices that a worker needs. The housing, transportation, and all these components will form the basis of our discussion and negotiation. So, it is not going to be on a round figure basis. The current minimum wage will be determined by the current prices of items.”
When asked about states that have failed to factor in adjustments for the new minimum wage in their budgets, the Head of Information of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Benson Upah, said, “Once the law is passed, they will be under obligation to comply with it. How they fund it will be up to them. At least they have the window of supplementary appropriation.”
Ahead of next year’s negotiation for a new minimum wage for workers in the country, the NLC insisted that only an amount reflective of the current economic realities would be accepted.
The President of the congress, Mr Joe Ajaero, stated this last Tuesday in Abuja at the 19th edition of the NLC 2023 Harmattan School.
Ajaero, represented by the Vice-President of the NLC, Mr Benjamin Anthony, said it was necessary for the government at all levels to recognise that life and living conditions were getting more difficult.
“The removal of subsidies on petroleum products has further worsened the challenges faced by working people. That is unleashing severe pain and contributing to galloping inflation and increasing inequality and poverty.
“We must reckon that a well-motivated and well-remunerated workforce has a positive impact on productivity and national development. As we anticipate the commencement of negotiations for the national minimum wage in 2024, we seek the understanding of all stakeholders to ensure that we use this opportunity to arrive at a minimum wage commensurate with the prevailing cost of living.”
The NLC president said the ultimate goal of labour was a living wage that would cover the cost of living and make allowance for savings.
On the wage award, Upah said the congress would also hold the Federal Government by its promise concerning the release of the outstanding wage award to workers.
Saturday PUNCH had earlier reported that the Federal Government only paid the wage award for September while failing to pay that of October and November.
The NLC and its counterpart, the Trade Union Congress, had warned the government against going back on the agreement it made with workers as regards the wage award to help mitigate the effects of the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit popularly known as petrol. However, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation noted that plans were being put in place to ensure that workers receive their wage awards soon.
Commenting on the matter, Upah said, “You heard their response to the effect that workers have no cause to worry. We will hold them to their promise.”
One of the agreements reached with the Federal Government by the leadership of the NLC and the TUC is that the government will pay the sum of N35,000 as wage awards pending the time that negotiations for a new minimum wage will commence.
President Bola Tinubu had declared during his Independence Day speech that “low-grade workers” in the federal civil service would be awarded a wage of N25,000.
The amount was later increased to N35,000 following discussions with the organised labour unions. A memo signed by the Chairman, National Salaries Wages and Income Commission, Ekpo Nta, noted that the approval took effect from September 1, 2023.
Northern govs’ decision
The governors of the 19 northern states under the aegis of the Northern Governors’ Forum may have resolved to make a uniform offer on the payment of the wage award to workers in the region.
The Chairman, NLC in Kaduna State, Ayuba Suleiman, who disclosed this to one of our correspondents on the telephone, said the development led to the current delay in making any pronouncement on the wage award in the state, otherwise, the state had an agreement in principle on the matter.
Apart from the wage award to the state civil servants, Suleiman also disclosed that Governor Uba Sani had promised the state workers to pay them the December salary bonus and distribute another round of palliatives to cushion the effects of the fuel subsidy removal.
Suleiman stated, “We have written to the government through the Head of Service and they have replied, assuring us that they are getting ready for negotiation.
“The northern governors want to decide on a uniform wage and met yesterday (Friday, December 14, 2023). But we don’t know the outcome yet.
“When we went for a condolence visit to the governor, Senator Uba Sani, he promised us the other part of the palliatives – the issue of rice. He also promised a bonus for December.
“He promised to give our workers their basic salaries and 13th month salary (bonus).”
On whether or not the state government captured the new minimum wage that should come into operation on April 1, 2024, in its budget, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mohammed Lawal-Shehu, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that he was in transit and would call back.
However, as of the time of filing this report, he had yet to fulfil his promise of calling back.
Benue wage differential
The Benue State Government said it had yet to make provision for the proposed new minimum wage for workers since the issue was still on the negotiation table between Federal Government and labour unions.
The Commissioner for Finance and Budget Planning, Michael Oglegba, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the telephone on Saturday, said that the government had made allowance for wage differential in the budget.
Oglegba also said that the wage award to workers in the state was still at the negotiation level.
“We are awaiting the final negotiation with the Federal Government on the new minimum wage; however, we have made allowance for possible wage differential in our budget,” he said.
The state Chairman of the NLC, Terungwa Igbe, said the state government had yet to meet with the labour and trade union leaders on wage award despite their letters to it.
The NLC boss said the union was waiting for the state government to invite the labour leaders for negotiation on the wage award.
Uncertainty in Borno
It is not clear if the Borno State Government captured the new minimum wage in the 2024 budget and if it will make a supplementary budget for it.
Also, there is still no negotiation between the state’s chapter of the NLC and the state government on the wage award to its workers to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal.
“I have no information on that,” the Commissioner for Information and Internal Security, Prof Usman Tar, said in a telephone conversation with one of our correspondents.
“As I told you some weeks ago, we submitted a letter on the issue not long ago to the governor and he pleaded with us to let him contend with some pressing issues before any negotiation on the wage award,” Yusuf Inuwa, Borno State NLC Chairman told Sunday PUNCH.
“We cannot tell you the action to take for the governor’s refusal until the negotiation takes place and it is not implemented,” he added.
Ekiti minimum wage
The organised labour in Ekiti State on Saturday expressed hope that it would soon reach a compromise with the state government on the wage award.
The Chairman, Trade Union Congress in the state, Sola Adigun said, “We (labour) have written, and negotiation is ongoing. All the necessary machinery for us to arrive at a reasonable amount has commenced and very soon, we are expecting that both government and labour will reach a compromise for the benefit of our members.”
Adigun, who said that the new minimum wage would always be accommodated by supplementary budgets in instances like this, stated, “We are not giving ourselves any headache. When the negotiations for the minimum wage start at the national level and our leaders at the national level agree on a reasonable amount, it is mandatory for the states to implement. What usually happens is that state governments will take supplementary budgets to the Houses of Assembly so that the minimum wage can be implemented. For this reason, we fear less.
“If the government has gone ahead to budget for the minimum wage, how much is it? The minimum wage should be a result of collective bargaining between the government and labour. So, it is not what the government can just say, okay, the minimum wage should be like this. If the government goes ahead to put any amount in the budget, I don’t think that is the best. Though the budget is an estimate, maybe the government is just estimating that probably it will be this and that.”
Edo’s new wage
The Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, has said the state government will soon come up with a new minimum after discussions with the labour unions.
He noted that the state was currently paying N40,000, which he noted was above the minimum wage.
Nehikhare said, “I can confirm that there are enough personnel courses for the workers next year.
We also know that labour negotiation will go beyond next year, so we have funds available to take care of the workers’ needs.
“Don’t forget, Edo State currently pays way above the minimum wage. So, we will be glad to work with whatever comes up at the end of negotiations.”
Osun wage award
When contacted, the Osun State Chairman of the TUC, Mr Bimbo Fasasi, said the payment of the wage award to workers would commence this month.
“The Osun State Government will commence payment of the wage award to the workers this December. We have that understanding with them,” he stated.
Delta wage budget
Governor Sheriff Oborevweri of Delta State says he has provided for a likely salary increase by the Federal Government in the 2024 budget.
Oborevweri disclosed this when he presented the N714.4bn Appropriation Bill for the 2024 fiscal year to the State House of Assembly.
“The personnel cost of N150bn provided in the budget was in anticipation of domestication of a likely salary increase by the Federal Government sometime in 2024,” the governor said.
The NLC Chairman in the state, Goodluck Ofobruku, said negotiation on wage awards between the state government and labour was ongoing.
Kogi NLC embraces dialogue
The organised labour in Kogi State has said that it will continue to employ diplomacy in mounting pressure on the state government on the need to provide palliatives to cushion the effect of the recent subsidy removal.
The Chairman of the state council of the NLC, Gabriel Amari, in a chat with one of our correspondents in Lokoja, said several letters had been written to the state government through the Head of Service, but no response had been received.
The Commissioner for Finance, Idris Ashiru, recently told journalists that no palliative was captured in the 2024 budget proposal laid before the state House of Assembly last week.
He said that the Kogi State salary structure was about the most robust and there was therefore no need for further wage award for now.
Asked for the next line of action, Amari said he would continue to employ diplomacy in mounting pressure on the government on the need to follow the footsteps of neighbouring states like Kwara Nasarawa and Adamawa.
Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, has unveiled the plan for a new minimum wage, which he notes is due for negotiation next year.
In the state’s 2024 budget of N296.4bn laid before the state House of Assembly on Thursday, Abdulrazaq said the budget was made up of 61 per cent capital expenditure and 39 per cent recurrent expenditure.
“Also covered in this document is our preparation for a new minimum wage, which is due for negotiation next year,” the governor stated.
The Chairman of the TUC in the state, Tunde Joseph, said that the Labour leaders had met with state government officials on the delay in the payment of the monthly N10,000 award for workers for November and “we have written letters to the governor to raise the amount to N35,000 as done by the Federal Government.”
Abia makes provision
The Abia State Government says it has concluded plans to increase the salaries of its workers to reflect the present economic realities in the country.
Governor Alex Otti stated this during his presentation of the state 2024 budget to the state House of Assembly last week.
The governor said, “As I promised at a media briefing earlier in the month, we shall be implementing a pay rise for our civil servants to reflect the present economic realities in the country.
“This shall be implemented in the New Year and provision for that has been made in the 2024 budget.
“The government will continue to prioritise the welfare of its employees even as we expect to see greater commitment from our civil servants, who are major stakeholders in the implementation of our governance agenda.”
In his reaction, the state NLC chairman, Pascal Nweke, said what the governor was talking about was wage award, adding that the labour union was on the new minimum wage.
Ogun workers waiting
The Chairman of the NLC in Ogun State, Hammed Ademola-Benco, said that the workforce was still waiting for Governor Dapo Abiodun to constitute a negotiation committee to address wage award as proposed by the national leadership of the union.
Ademola-Benco said, “The organised labour has written another letter reminding Governor Dapo Abiodun to create time to constitute a negotiation committee to address wage award as proposed by the national leadership. So, organised labour is anxiously waiting for the governor’s invitation”.
Asked if a new minimum salary was captured in the 2024 budget recently presented to the state House of Assembly, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication, Mr Kayode Akinmade, said, “The budget is in the House of Assembly. It has yet to be passed. So, it is not a law. You can’t quote any portion because it may still be subject to amendment.”
Additional reports by GODWIN ISENYO, JOHN CHARLES, UTHMAN ABUBAKAR, ABIODUN NEJO, ADEYINKA ADEDIPE, BOLA BAMIGBOLA, MATTHEW OCHEI, GBENGA ODOGUN, TUNDE OYEKOLA, SUNDAY NWAKANMA and BANKOLE TAIWO