As the December 31 deadline given by the organised labour for state governments to conclude negotiations with their unions on the consequential adjustments to the new minimum wage expires tomorrow, at least 13 states will not meet the deadline.
The 13 states, which may face industrial crisis, include Cross River, Yobe, Bayelsa, Ogun, Taraba, Oyo, Kogi, Katsina, Plateau, Bauchi, Ekiti, Borno and Enugu. It was, however, gathered that at least eight states were making last-minute efforts to conclude negotiations before the expiration of the Deadline. The eight states are Delta, Zamfara, Ondo, Sokoto, Osun, Kwara and Anambra.
The national leadership of the unions is also set to meet to assess progress made and decide on what further action to take against non-compliance by some states with the deadline.
In Cross River State, it was learnt that the state Government and the organised labour would not meet the deadline as talks were yet to begin. Though the workers in the state through the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) leadership had made formal request to the state government to commence negotiations, the state government said both parties, including the workers, were occupied with the 2019 annual Calabar Christmas Festival, which climaxed with the Carnival Calabar on Saturday.
The NLC through a communiqué signed by the state NLC Vice Chairman, Lawrence Achuta and the council’s Secretary, Ita Ayi, had demanded that the state government should hasten negotiations. Governor Ben Ayade’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Christian Ita, however, said that the issue of the payment of the consequential adjustment to the workers would be handled satisfactorily given the track record of cordial relationship between Ayade and the labour.
“There are no issues at all because from the beginning the governor has never hidden his desire to pay. So, everywhere is quiet, meaning that there is some sort of discussion going on.
“We will get to that immediately after we are done with our celebrations. Right now, everybody in the state, including labour, is into this carnival to make it a success,” he added.
In Yobe State, the state Chairman of NLC, Muktar Musa Tarbutu, told said that “we have not started negotiations with the Yobe State Government but we have all the machinery in place for negotiations.
“We will be going into negotiations next week. We hope it will be successful. If there is need to go on strike, that will be determined after congress meeting, but for now, we are hopeful we won’t need that.”
In Ogun State, it took the threat of an industrial action by the Joint Public Service Negotiating along with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and NLC before the state government agreed to negotiate and the talks had not progressed. Bayelsa State Chairman of the NLC, Mr. John Ndiomu, also confirmed that the state government had yet to invite the organised labour for talks.
He warned that if the situation remains the same after December 31, the union may no longer guarantee industrial harmony in the state.
“We are still waiting for the government to call us to finally agree on the implementation. We are aware that the government is doing some work on it and I am sure they are trying to work out the details, but the fact remains that they have not called us for a meeting. “So, after the 31st (of December), we have already written to the government that we can no longer guarantee industrial harmony in the state.
“Handing over is February 14; deadline is December 31, but we have at least December 31 to the end of January. That is what we are working on,” he said. Reporters gathered that the inability of the Taraba State Government to meet the deadline was primarily due to the failure of the state government to set up a committee to negotiate the consequential adjustments with the labour.
The state Chairman of NLC, Peter Gambo, said that the labour had written the state government to set up the committee but was still waiting for the governor’s directive to that effect.
He, however, stated that the Joint Negotiating Council would meet on Monday (today) alongside the NLC and TUC to take a position on the issue. However, the state government has pleaded for time and understanding with labour even as it expressed readiness to commence negotiations on the matter.
Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Governor Darius Ishaku, Bala Dan Abu, stated that the consequential adjustments would definitely be sorted out in the best interest of the state and workers, adding that the governor is not averse to negotiation. The Oyo State Chairman of the NLC, Bayo Titilola-Sodo, also said that the committee set up to negotiate with the labour has not concluded its assignment.
“It is doubtful whether the committee set up to negotiate with labour on the new minimum wage will complete its assignment before the deadline. However, we may have to wait for the verification committee, which the government set up to determine the actual number of workers in the state to complete its assignment,” he added.
The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, however said the state government could not do anything concerning the new minimum wage until the committee set up to negotiate with the labour union in had completed its assignment and make its report available to the government. Reporters also gathered that Kogi State is one of the states that has not set up a committee to negotiate with the labour unions. The state Chairman of TUC, Ranti Ojo, said that the labour had written the state government but there was no response from the government.
In Katsina State, the minimum wage committee Chairman and Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Mustapha Inuwa, said the state government would consider the revenue coming from the federal government and its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) as part of criteria for the payment of the consequential salary adjustments.
“We have about six to seven local government councils that have problems with payment of salaries and cannot pay the new minimum wage based on their financial status. “The labour and workers should understand that the government will do what it can afford and become sustainable based on the available resources,” he said.
The new minimum wage committee inaugurated by Governor Aminu Bello Masari had on December 24 met with labour leaders in the state behind-closed-doors but the meeting ended in a deadlock. A source privy to the meeting stated that Inuwa, during the meeting, presented a document containing the position of the state government on the new salary adjustment to the union for consideration.
It was also gathered that both the negotiation committee and NLC leaders were expected to meet tomorrow on the matter. In Plateau State, the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Dan Majang, said that the committee put in place was still working on how much the state would pay workers.
“But I can assure you that Plateau State will implement because we are a state that believes that workers deserve their wages.
“Currently, workers are being screened because we want to know how many civil servants we have; who and who are on our payroll and what they get. The most important thing is to pay; whether there is a deadline or no deadline,” he stated.
The state Chairman of NLC, Eugene Manji, also said that the state government has invited the workers for a meeting today (Monday).
“We don’t want to recognise any screening committee work; it is not part of our agreement with them. If they knew they needed to do any screening to ascertain the number of civil servants in the state, they should have started that long ago, not at the dying minute. This negotiation about minimum wage has started long ago. We won’t allow any screening committee to interfere with the negotiation,” he said.
Though the state government has said that whether or not it meets the deadline, all arrears will be paid, Manji added that the deadline is important, as the labour has given a prolonged time to the government to sort itself out.
In Bauchi State, the meeting between the state government and the organised labour ended in a deadlock on Friday, which was the deadline given by the state government for the committee to conclude the negotiations. However, a statement signed by the State Chairman, Joint Public Service Negotiation Council(JPSNC), Abdullahi Ibrahim Askia, said the organised labour in the state was on top of the matter as negotiations would continue this week.
“While calling for prayers from members of the state workforce, we have resolved not to compromise our commitment to protect the interest of our members,” he said.
The Ekiti State Government and labour unions have, however, doused the tension within the civil service that the non-compliance with the December 31 deadline could stall further negotiations.
The state Head of Service and the leader of the government’s negotiating team, Mr. Deji Ajayi, said the deadline would not affect the continuation of the discussion on the most appropriate wages to be paid to workers.
“The December 31 deadline won’t affect us in arriving at the most desirable and acceptable wage bill for our workers.
“We started sitting two weeks ago and we are moving at our own pace, which will be the best and most desirable option by the time we will come out with our position,” he explained.
Also speaking on the matter, the TUC Chairman in the state, Sola Adigun, said the delay in the composition of the negotiating committee in the state would make it difficult for the team to conclude its assignment before the deadline set by the federal government. In Enugu State, the NLC has said it is ready to adjust the December 31 deadline. Enugu State Chairman of the NLC, Viginus Nwobodo, said that the union was ready to give the committee one week if they were unable to meet up with the deadline, provided the negotiating parties are comfortable with the terms.
He said a technical committee that would look at the figures had since been set up and had begun work. “They are expected to report back to the committee and I believe that by Monday when we meet, they will have something to show us,” he said.
On his part, Commissioner for Information in the state, Chidi Aroh, said the recurrent expenditure of N68,790,000.000 was aimed at accommodating expected expenditure arising from the consequential adjustments on the new minimum wage.
“The NLC cannot give anybody deadline because their local branches are negotiating and Enugu is not an exception. The union here is comfortable with the negotiations,” he added.
The Borno State Chairman of NLC, Bulama Abiso, said that the labour was hopeful that the outcome of negotiations would soon be ready.
He said: “Here in Borno State, therefore, the issue of starting industrial action does not arise for now.”
Seven States in Last-minute Rush to Conclude Negotiations Meanwhile, the Delta State Government through the Committee headed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Chiedu Ebie, has fully engaged the organised labour headed by Delta NLC Chairman, Mr. Goodluck Ofobruku, in negotiating the consequential adjustments for the state.
The SSG told THISDAY that although the final seal was yet to be put on the government-labour talks, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa had approved the payment of the December due increment across the different salary levels to be paid with the January 2020 salary of Delta employees.
Ebie said: “So far, we have met severally where we reiterated the commitment of the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-led administration to implement the new wage using the template received by us from the federal government.”
The Chairman of NLC in Zamfara State, Bashir Mafara, stated that since the government set up the implementation committee on Wednesday, the union and the government have been meeting to beat the deadline. In Ondo, the Chairman of NLC, Mr. Sunday Adeleye, said the delay was due to the fact that the figure that the government offered as consequential adjustment for workers on Grade Level 7 and above was not acceptable.
Adeleye, however, said the government had agreed to pay what the federal government was paying workers on Grade Level 1-6 in full. The NLC chairman said negotiations for adjustment for Grade Level 7 and above would be completed by today.
In a bid to meet up the deadline, the labour union and the government of Sokoto State have been having a marathon meeting to ensure that they beat the Tuesday deadline.
The chairman of NLC in the state, Aminu Umar Ahmad, said the union and the government were meeting daily to ensure that they conclude talks before tomorrow.
The Osun State government has also expressed optimism that negotiations would be concluded within the deadline. The Kwara State Government has also commenced negotiations with joint labour unions in the state in order to meet tomorrow’s deadline.
The state government penultimate week in Ilorin set up a 15-member committee to negotiate with the joint labour unions in the state. The government in a statement by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye, said, “the team is peopled by government officials and leadership of the labour unions in the state.”
Also speaking, a member of the implementation committee and state Chairman of the TUC, Mr. Kolawole Olumoh, who confirmed the commencement of negotiations with the government committee was hopeful they would beat the deadline.
Kwara State Chairman of NLC, Kabiru Ado Minjibir, said the negotiations had been concluded and the parties would soon decide the payment cut-off date. The Anambra State Head of Service, Harry Uduh, in a telephone interview in Awka said that negotiations had been concluded and that the state was making arrangements to issue a circular that would contain the resolutions reached between the state government and the leaders of the NLC in the state.
Labour to Assess States’ Compliance with Deadline
Meanwhile, the national leadership of the unions is to set to meet to assess progress made and decide on what further action to take against non-compliance with the deadline.
As at the weekend only Lagos, Kaduna, Adamawa and Kebbi states have begun the full implementation of the new minimum wage signed into law in April 2019.
The President of TUC, Olaleye Quadri, who gave an update on the negotiations, said the organised labour had agreed on a strategy to engage the states as separate entities during negotiations for the payment of minimum wage. For instance, he said that the Ogun State chapter of the Joint Public Service Negotiating had planned a protest and warning strike in the state along with TUC and NLC just before Christmas but it was averted by the state government.
Quadri said the organised labour would make its position known on Monday (today) on the progress being made with the payment of the new minimum wage.