Editorial

On labour’s impending strike

 

There are skirmishes and warnings so far among labour unions in the country. This stems from the lingering non implementation of the consequential upward adjustment expected by workers following the adoption of the new minimum wage. Consequently, the organised labour under the aegis of the Trade Union Side, TUS of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, JNPSNC, the eight Unions in the Public Services of the federal and 36 state governments have recently alerted Nigerians of the possibility of labour embarking on industrial action if the current state of affairs as regards the issue of consequential adjustment arising from the new national minimum wage of N30,000.00 per month is not addressed.
It should be noted that President Muhammadu Buhari appointed economist Bismarck Rewane to head a Technical Advisory Committee on the implementation of the National Minimum Wage. The terms of reference for the Rewane committee include to develop and advise government on how to successfully bring about a smooth implementation of wage increases and identify new revenue sources, as well as areas of existing expenditure from where some savings could be made in order to fund the wage increases without adversely impacting the nation’s development goals as set out in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
The committee was also asked to propose a work plan and modalities for the implementation of the salary increases, and any other suggestions that may assist in the implementation of this and future wage increases. The committee had on March 12 submitted its report to the President. Today, that is a clear four months since the committee completed its work.
We are worried that another committee was set up in May to look at the recommendations again. There seems an apparent vacillation of the Federal Government on the implementation of the law. The payment of the new wage ought to have commenced immediately after the President’s assent to the bill. According to labour leaders, the TUS had initially proposed that since the minimum wage was increased by 66.66 per cent, i.e. from N18, 000.000 to N30, 000.00, salaries for officers on Grade Levels 01-17 should be adjusted accordingly to maintain the relativity that exists in the salary structure in the public service.
However, it appears government wants to make increments for certain category of civil servants especially the senior staff marginally. Sources say TUS received a rude shock at the last meeting of the technical committee when the government side began to hold on to a “non-existent” position that the Technical Committee’s term of reference was to base its assignment in respect of salary adjustment on what was provided for the subject in the 2019 budget.
The implication of government’s position, in TUS opinion, was that the Technical Committee cannot go beyond what the government was pushing for, which is 9.5 per cent salary increase for officers on GL 07-14 and 5 per cent for those on GL 15-17. To be fair to both parties they are right and partially wrong.
Lt may be extremely difficult to require the government, including state governments who may not have enough money for a wholesale increment to do so. Gradual increment for senior staff is not completely wrong, however, the percentage of increment is too low.
We would have preferred that the wages are increased as it was signed (for everyone) but reality is always different from idealism.
There is the temptation for each state to pay its workers according to its purse; however, there will always be a national minimum wage figure. Truthfully, each state should pay what it can. Each state should be allowed to pay its workers what it can afford. Therefore, states should not complain about national minimum wage when they collect nationally shared revenues. However states who appear to be the ones that complicate matters such as this should be a bit more realistic on the figures they bandied so that it does not look as if the workers are slaves.
While we call on government to revisit the marginal percentage increases, we urge governments at all levels to be prepared to add more to what they appear to be comfortable with. Government should be a lot more prudent than they presently are. The same way we expect workers to be more committed than they presently are. No doubt everyone still has things to sacrifice but we do not support any strike at this time.

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