– Umahi agrees to pay Ebonyi Workers N66,500 mw
By Olisemeka Sony, Francis Ekpone, Okey Onuegbu & Sunday Agbo
Nigerian workers have threatened to utilise their voting power during the 2019 elections against the federal and any state governments that fail to pay the N66,500 new minimum wage currently being negotiated in the country. The minimum wage agitating workers also warned against any attempt to renegotiate their demand for N66,500 as the national minimum wage in the country. The existing minimum wage is N18,000.
The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, issued the threat on Tuesday in Abuja in his message to Nigerian workers in celebration of May Day 2018. “We are battle-ready against public and private organisations that would refuse to conform to the new minimum wage,” Mr Wabba threatened.
“At our disposal is the power of our votes! We shall ensure that governments that refuse to pay the new minimum wage will not receive the support of the working class, pensioners and their families.”
Mr Wabba, who said workers would resist any move to renegotiate the proposed minimum wage at any level, urged the government to approve the minimum wage law and ensure all employers in public and private sectors paid the N66,500 package without further delay.
In his speech, the labour leader said although the process to review upwards the national minimum wage was ongoing since the inauguration of the tripartite committee for that purpose last year, immediate payment would help pull workers out of poverty. “An increase in the minimum wage will raise the levels of productivity and enhance the purchasing power of workers. The current demand of N66,500 as national minimum wage will only manage to meet the basic needs of the average Nigerian worker if inflation is kept at a single digit,” he noted.
He enjoined the federal government to ensure federal allocations were not released to states and local governments that refuse to implement the new minimum wage.
Mr Wabba noted that despite reports about the country’s economy exiting recession and on the path of growth and sustainable development, workers and their organisations were still confronted with significant challenges.
The NLC president, who spoke on the “Role of the Labour Movement in National Development: Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win,” said despite their contribution to national development, workers still demand and struggle for improved conditions of service, standard of living and welfare.
“From the first minimum wage of N125 in 1981 to the current N18,000, Mr Wabba said, workers have always been forced to “bargain so hard, wait for too long for wages that usually tend out to mock their contributions to national development.”
Mr Wabba lamented the poor state of the country’s economy, which he said has remained “essentially rent seeking” as a result of “systemic distortions” from over-dependence on crude oil revenue.
Meanwhile, Ebonyi state governor, David Umahi, has pledged to pay the N66,500 national minimum wage if implemented by the federal government.
Governor Umahi made the pledge while addressing Ebonyi state workers at the Pa Ngele Oruta Township Stadium in Abakaliki during the 2018 workers’ day celebration.
While assuring Ebonyi state employees of improved welfare package, the governor directed that the 2016, 2017 and 2018 promotion arrears be paid before May 15, 2018. He equally urged the state workers to avail themselves of the N4 billion loan and to choose an agricultural business of their choice.
He listed his government’s efforts towards improved welfare of workers: “We have paid 50% of workers’ salary to cushion the economic difficulties. We have also conducted 2016, 2017 and 2018 promotion examination. Members were subjected to thorough scrutiny to bring out the best in them.
“We have been trying to wage war against extreme poverty. A loan of two billion naira has been secured from the Bank of Industry and we have added another two billion naira to make it a total of four billion naira.
“You are expected to choose any agric business of your choice and get any loan of your capacity at the interest of 5% for a period of five years, so you have the choice to secure your future and our future. Every worker in the ministry of agriculture must own a farm or leave the service. They should be exposed to a soft anchor borrower loan to do agriculture.
“We do not owe pension to the civil servants. We are making effort to get the last tranche of the Paris Club Refund by May this year. By then government will pay its own share of the pension and pay for workers for one year.
“On CONHESS, some of them are said to be cemetery workers but we do not have cemetery workers in Ebonyi state. If you are dubiously converted, we shall place you where your certificate qualifies you. There will be no future recruitment of workers until when Ebonyi workers have something reasonable to take home.
“You are refusing the contributory pension reform act. The law has been made but you rejected it. I want to ask that the deduction start from the month of May. We have kept our promise and pay salaries before 15th of every month. The welfare package we have for our workers is the best across the country. We shall adopt whatever is the outcome of the discussion of the national minimum wage when it comes to effect.
While Ebonyi workers are relishing the prospect of a bumper N66,500 minimum wage, their counterparts in other south east states are still in the trenches. The Anambra state chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has decried Governor Willie Obiano’s failure to address the 14-point labour issues the union tabled before him at the 2017 workers’ day celebration.
The union also lamented that the government, in July 2017, inaugurated a committee, headed by Deputy Governor, Dr Nkem Okeke, to look into labour issues but without including any of its members in the committee.
The chapter chairman, Comrade Jerry Nnubia, who disclosed this while presenting his address at the 2018 Workers’ Day celebration held at Dr Alex Ekwueme Square in Awka, further bemoaned that the committee set up by the governor was yet to make it reports public even though it was charged to complete it works and make necessary recommendations within four months.
According to the NLC boss, the yet-to-be-addressed labour issues and problems include implementation of new minimum wage of N66, 500; stoppage of contributory pension scheme, non-payment of arrears of gratuity to retired local government workers and primary school teachers from 2015 to date, disparity in salary structures of state and local government workers and joint health sector union issues.
Others were problems of teachers, problems of parastatals, problems of Nigeria Union of Pensioners, non-academic staff union, NASU, problems, non-implementation of 65 years retirement age for staff of College of Education, Nsugbe, management of parks by National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), training need of workers, non completion of low cost housing (Ishiagu workers housing estate) and approval of land for construction of Labour House (secretariat).
He said that government should always make workers’ welfare its top priority in order to sustain national growth and development.
Speaking also, Comrade Ifeanyi Okechukwu, the Anambra State Chairman of Trade Union Congress (TUC), observed that one of the problems facing workers in the state was that promotion was not, often, done promptly and advised the governor to fast-track release of the 2016/2017 promotion of workers.
Okechukwu also called for proper monitoring of revenue agents in the state with a view to enabling the government to generate enough funds for payment of workers and effective and efficiency running of governance.
Responding, Governor Willie Obiano, represented by his deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke, assured workers of the government’s relentless efforts to carter for their welfare despite the economic meltdown and paucity of funds.
On the committee setup to look into the labour issues, Obiano urged workers to be patient as it would soon complete it work which was hampered by the November 18, 2017 governorship election.
The governor, however, noted that among the issues being considered by the committee were upward review of pension in the state, shift duty and housing allowances, responsibility allowance review for data processors, absorption of workers in the state agencies and parastatals into the Anambra state civil service.
Others were distribution of vehicles to directors in the state civil service, review of pension entitlements of staff of Nwafor Orizu College of Education, Nsugbe, to mention a few, even as he disclosed that approval for 2016 promotion exercise of deserving workers was ongoing.
Orient Daily reports that the 2018 workers day celebration was marred by low turnout of civil servants and top government functionaries probably because of the governor’s absence in the state. The deputy governor had, during his presentation, announced that Obiano travelled abroad for medical checkup.
That was even as some unions like Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), and others were forced to provide sitting positions for themselves as result of lack of adequate arrangement for those in attendance.
Nevertheless, the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, has thrown his weight behind Nigerian workers’ demand for improved wages, stressing that they deserve living wage and other basic amenities. The Catholic prelate, in an official statement, argued that the N18, 000 minimum wage is not enough for civil servants to meet their social and economic challenges. According to him, government should be clamouring for a living wage for workers and not pay cut or unpaid salaries and arrears.
“I really feel for Nigerian workers. While other countries of the world are busy taking care of their workers, down here, we are finding it difficult to pay N18,000 Minimum wage. Is this not wickedness?
He questioned the rationale for the wage disparity between political office holders and workers. “Why pay jumbo salaries and allowances to those who do little or nothing towards the development of this country? Why impoverish the workers? What we are suffering today is as a result of the mismanagement of the natural resources in the country by corrupt leaders, past and present. Some people, who ought to have maximised the nation’s resources, cornered the nation’s wealth to their pockets,’ the statement reads.
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