Minimum Wage: Nasarawa Workers Continue Strike as Labour, Govt Disagree

Governor Sule of Nasarawa State

THE expectation that the ongoing strike by organised labour in Nasarawa State would be suspended this week has been dashed following a major disagreement between the state government and leaderships of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress on a clause the government insist must be inserted in an agreement to end the strike.

Comrade Yusuf Sarki Iya

Public sector workers under the aegis of the NLC and TUC embarked on strike on June 9th over the non-implementation of the new national minimum wage more than two years after it became law and issues of promotion across all grade levels in the state’s public service.

Chairperson of the Nasarawa State Council of the NLC, Comrade Yusuf Sarki Iya, told National Record on Tuesday that though workers were set to suspend the strike on Monday after an agreement signing ceremony with the government, but decided against signing when the government insisted on inserting a clause in to say that in the event there is a drop in allocation from the federation, increments pertaining to promotion will automatically revert to the old salary scale.

As a result of this situation, the leadership of organised labour called an emergency congress of public service workers for Tuesday to report back and take a decision on the matter.

“The agenda of the meeting is that we have already resolved some of the issues. But just yesterday, when we met with His Excellency, the Governor to sign an agreement, we found out that there is a clause embedded in the agreement which labour is not comfortable with; so we are going to discuss it and get back to the governor on the way forward.

“The government inserted a clause to say that they will revert to the old salary in the event that there is a drop in the revenue accruing to the state from the federation account. We felt we need to discuss this at a joint congress and agree before we revert to the governor,” Comrade Sarki Iya told National Record Tuesday morning.

At the end of deliberations at the meeting which started by 10am at the Labour House in Lafia, Nasarawa State capital on Tuesday, the congress resolved to continue with the strike “until further notice.”

The congress further resolved to also transmit its decision to ‘critical stakeholders’ in the state, for instance, the Emir of Lafia, and other traditional rulers, about the ‘draconian policy’ of the state government.

“We held the meeting and we were able to relate what exactly happened [at the agreement signing ceremony] to the members and we’ve taken a decision. The issue at stake, just as I told you in the morning, is that the government reneged as to the implementation of the promotion, insisting that a clause must be included in the agreement that in the event where the allocation from the federation account drops, then the issue or the amount with regard to promotions shall not be considered again. That is to say that they will revert to the old salary. So, we related that to the members, and the members said there is no need we sign that agreement, and the strike continues till further notice.

“Currently, what we’re doing is that we are trying to see some critical stakeholders. We are going to see the Emir of Lafia to relate that to him because they are the ones that intervened to this stage we are presently. So we will report to them, the traditional rulers, to complain to them as to the draconian policy of the government. So that is precisely where we are and we are going to issue a communiqué expressing our dismay over the U-turn that the government is trying to do over the agreement,” Comrade Sarki Iya stated.

Before embarking on the strike on June 9, a seven-day notice issued by organised labour had lapsed.

NULGE members not part of the strike
At the moment, the state government is set to commence the implementation of the new national minimum wage for grade levels 1 to 6 beginning from June 2021, with the exception of local government employees.

Local government employees, under the aegis of NULGE, and who are cut off from enjoying the implementation of the new wage regime, are however not participating in the ongoing strike.

When asked why NULGE is not part of the strike, Comrade Sarki Iya’s response was: “Well, you know the politics of Nigeria, and as you know, this is a union that operates at the local government level. Most often, the leadership is conscripted by the state government, so sometimes they comply with whatsoever desire that fits the authority at the local government level; that is the fact.”

Any hope for arrears of the new wage?
Comrade Sarki Iya also stated that in all its engagements with government, organised labour had insisted on the payment of arrears of the new minimum wage for all grade levels, although it is not quite clear if the government was ready to do so.

Comrade Sarki Iya said: “In all our submissions, we kept telling them that the law is meant that whenever they start paying, they were going to pay the arrears with even interest as embedded in the law, that the interest is equivalent to the prevailing bank charges at that moment.

“So they [government] are very much aware of it; we have not started talking about that yet. And even the implementation of levels 1-6; perhaps it was an illegal implementation, because, one, there is still discussion ongoing on how we are going to arrive at that because there is no template to show the number of people that are going to enjoy it. Two, there is no report from the minimum wage committee that has been set up by the state government to say that this is what we have arrived at. So, they just went ahead, it is just a kind of circumvention of the procedure to implement that. So to us, that implementation was not in tandem with the desire and wish of organised labour.”


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