ALMOST two years after President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the N30,000 new national minimum wage on April 18, 2019, employees of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), which was in the frontline of the struggle in the negotiation, are yet to enjoy the new wage regime, an investigation by National Record has revealed.
Sources at the national secretariat and state councils of the NLC confided in National Record that the national headquarters of NLC, from where salaries are paid to Congress staff at both the national headquarters and the 37 state councils (including the FCT), has at the moment no proper mechanism in place towards the implementation of the new minimum wage for its employees 18 months after the new wage become law.
Multiple sources at various levels of the NLC said this is the first time in the history of NLC that workers under the employment of the NLC are denied the enjoyment of a new wage for this long period of time after the commencement of implementation by employers in both the public and private sectors.
“Before now, when there is substantial compliance by employers especially in the federal public service, the Congress will always immediately begin to pay us. From previous wage reviews up to 2011, that was our experience. But this time around; we don’t know what has happened or what is happening. Perhaps the leadership has a reason for delaying paying us the new wage,” a state council employee of NLC told National Record.
Corroborating this view, a highly placed source at Paschal Bafyau Labour House national
secretariat of NLC, well-versed on the minimum wage issue but pleaded anonymity as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, stated that it normally doesn’t take this long for the Congress to begin implementation of a new wage once the federal government or substantial number of states have complied.
“In the past, it doesn’t take this long for Congress to begin implementation even though they used to make the point that they can only implement when their affiliates started enjoying and remitting check-off. In this current situation, since a vast majority of the states are already paying [the minimum wage]; the NLC does not have any reason not paying up to now.
“In 2011, even before there was substantial compliance at both the federal and state public services, Congress commenced implementation almost immediately. The reason they are not paying, for me is best known to the current leadership,” the source stated.
Another reliable source, who equally pleaded anonymity for fear that he will be victimised, confirmed that the new wage regime has not yet taken off although he however stated that “they are working on it.”
When asked that it is now getting two years since the new wage became law and that it is obviously unusual for the NLC who championed the cause not to have implemented the minimum wage, the staff stated there were challenges facing the NLC which is delaying the implementation up to now.
“The first challenge was that, you know, the Congress gets its money from its affiliates. When we engaged the management, the idea was that if a reasonable number of affiliates now start implementing and it is reflecting on their dues, it will be implemented for NLC staff. While that was ongoing, the struggle to ensure that there is a gross about the implementation, then this Covid-19 pandemic came on board.
“One thing I can tell you is that in a recent meeting with the General Secretary, we were told there are modalities in place to see that it is implemented. One assurance we were given was that, whatever the situation is, we will also be paid the arrears.
“If we look at the NLC financial situation, Congress is also in a critical situation. This is coupled with the fact that its delegates conference took place last year, which gulped a lot of money. But it is not as if I am making excuses for management, but we also need to look at the reality on ground. The idea was that on or before now, it would have been implemented, but like I said, this Covid-19 thing gave a serious blow to every sector and almost every worker,” the NLC staff argued.
When reminded that even with the Covid-19 pandemic, public servants were being paid and as a result substantial check-off dues were being remitted to Congress, the staff instead asked; “but how many states are complying?”
When told that from records released by the NLC secretariat, about two-third of the states have started implementing, the staff then noted: “Like I said, they told us that there are modalities in place to ensure that the new wage is implemented, but at the moment, it has not been implemented.”
When confronted with the issue of non-implementation of the new national minimum wage last Friday, October 2, 2020, in his office, the General Secretary, Comrade Emmanuel Ugboaja, declined to comment, stating that he doesn’t speak to the media.