New National Minimum Wage Implementation: The Endless Vigil
WHEN the N30,000 National Minimum Wage Act was signed into law on April 18, 2019 by President Muhammadu Buhari, not many workers had imagined that about 15 months after it became law, majority of workers, especially in the states, would still be engaged in an unending vigil for implementation.
Although Nigerian workers have sufficiently been drilled by their overlapping experience in past struggles for wage increase and the corresponding resistance to improved wages by the ruling elite, there was some degree of positive expectation this time that given the time, energy and personnel in addition to the rigid adherence to tripartism that was brought to bear in the negotiation of the N30,000 national minimum wage, its implementation would be relatively smoother devoid of threats of industrial strikes from workers.
Apart from the tripartite composition of the negotiators, the contestations and concessions made by organised labour in agreeing to a figure that is less than half lower than its original demand of about N65,000, coupled with the acceptance by all parties in the negotiation, which included the governors, there was sufficient hope and cause to expect a flawless process of implementation thereafter.
That is now not to be. While it took organised Labour and the federal government exactly six months to agree on the consequential adjustment for federal public workers on October 18, 2019 after a highly belligerent negotiation process; in many states where the governors are effectively in absolute command and control of every process, the consummation of the new minimum wage has remained unimplemented and in limbo due to several roadblocks mounted by the governors.
Before the pandemic, riled by the governors’ delay tactics, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had in its 2020 New Year Message dated December 31, 2019 directed its state councils to start preparing for industrial protest against defaulting governors just as it warned state governments yet to implement or begin negotiations with labour on the consequential wage adjustment to fast tract the process.
“We use this medium to implore states that are yet to implement the new national minimum wage, including the states that are yet to begin negotiation with labour on the consequential wage adjustment to speedily do the needful. In tandem with our position as adopted and communicated after a stakeholders’ meeting on December 11, 2019, organised labour in Nigeria will not guarantee industrial harmony in states that fail to implement the new national minimum wage by December 31, 2019. We direct our state councils to be on the standby to robustly engage state governments that fail to obey our laws,” the NLC had stated in its New Year message.
While it took organised Labour and the federal government exactly six months to agree on the consequential adjustment for federal public workers on October 18, 2019 after a highly belligerent negotiation process; in many states where the governors are effectively in absolute command and control of every process, the consummation of the new minimum wage has remained unimplemented and in limbo due to several roadblocks mounted by the governors.
An unexpected but natural addition to these road blocks to implementation of the new wage is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which has now become the most readily available excuse to deny workers.
Coupled with the pandemic as a fitting excuse remains the age-old claim of the lack of financial capacity to pay agreed national minimum wages by state governors. The new narrative of many governors now is that with the coronavirus prompting economic crisis in virtually every country, especially the crash in the price of crude oil at the international market, which has invariably led to a drastic fall in federal allocations to states, they are struggling to even pay workers the previous N18,000 wage; although political appointees, especially former governors, in these states who earn many times more than the average worker continue to smile to the banks.
While the federal government and the state government may be claiming to be spending so much to contain the pandemic, there is little or nothing on the ground in almost all the states to indicate that such funds were being put to effective use in the provision and upgrading of health facilities, or in the payment of improved salaries and allowances to health workers, if the complaints and threats of strike by medical and health professionals, or even the mass sack of others, are any reliable indicators that nothing has changed.
National Record’s findings indicate that in almost all the states but just a handful, workers and pensioners are not only being denied of their legitimate salaries, pensions, and gratuities, they are also evidently owed several months in arrears. Apart from this, a few states have gone further to demoralise workers by attempting to forcibly enforce deductions from the salaries of certain categories of workers under the pretext of hardship occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. With stiff resistance, this had been reduced.
While all groups of workers are affected by one form of denial or the other of their legitimate earnings, the most affected group suffocating under the malaise unpaid salaries and gratuities are local government workers including primary school teachers.
Even in the states where the new wage is being implemented up to date, the local government workers, primary school teachers and retirees are literally starving as they are neither paid their in full nor the retirees and pensioners promptly paid gratuities and pensions. This group are many times higher than the number of conventional civil servants.
While workers’ organisations are constrained by the restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic from exploring other industrial relations strategies of engaging governors, especially the potent weapon of strike, to accelerate the process of implementation of the new wage, their existential burdens workers particularly across the states continue to escalate due to pre-existing socio-economic factors combining with the pandemic.
The State of Implementation in the States
Findings by National Record indicate that though in most states, the new national minimum wage may have been technically implemented; however, in virtually all the states, implementation, where obtainable, is haphazard and restricted to state’s core civil servants.
National Record, in an effort to ascertain the extent of implementation of the new wage, spoke to state councils of the Nigeria Labour Congress in 22 out of the 36 state across the country. A common denominator, our findings indicate, is that even in states where negotiations have been concluded and full implementation commenced, local government workers and primary school teachers, as well as workers in some parastatals or semi-autonomous agencies are still excluded and left behind.
In a few states, local government workers and primary school teachers have not only ever tasted the old N18,000 minimum wage, they are still owed backlog of salaries of that unimplemented wage regime.
An equally traumatic situation for workers in all the states is the endemic problem of unpaid gratuities to retired public servants. In Imo State in particular, the issue of unpaid gratuities is so bad that the last time retired workers in the state enjoyed it was during the military administration in 1998.
The state of implementation, challenges and peculiarities that exist in states are highlighted below in our brief survey conducted through telephone interviews with state chairpersons of the NLC in the respective states.
Bayelsa: Implementation has commenced, now negotiating backlog
The Bayelsa State Council Chairman, Comrade John Bipre Ndiomu, said the new wage has been implemented in the state. On whether the implementation took into context the backlog, Comrade Ndiomu said the political uncertainty in Bayelsa State within the period invariably affected the negotiation.
He said by December 2019 when his leadership pushed for the implementation of the wage, it was overshadowed by political campaigns, the governorship election and preparation to handover by the then incumbent on March 14, 2020. “They had only January salary to pay before leaving and we pressured that the payment of the new minimum wage must commence that December,” he said, adding that negotiations are on with the current government on the payment of the backlog from April 2019 when the new national minimum wage was signed into law.
“We have not been able to agree with the government on the number of months actually to be paid but definitely we will be paid as we are in negotiations on this,” Comrade Ndiomu stated.
Comrade Ndiomu revealed that the state has pending arrears for teachers from the N18,000 minimum wage which the current government is now trying to upset through gradual payment of the arrears.
On the fate of local government workers, Comrade Ndiomu said state government has set up a committee headed by the Deputy Governor and composed of the various local government chairmen, himself as the state council chairman of Congress and representatives of all the unions in the various local government councils to work out how the new wage will be implemented at the local government level.
On the gratuities, Comrade Ndiomu said: “We have the problem of unpaid gratuities, we have backlog. Since this new administration started, they have been paying monthly, from March that he took over, he has been paying monthly but we have backlog.”
Benue: Still negotiating
In Benue, negotiations are still ongoing. Comrade Godwin Anya, Benue State Council Chairman of NLC, said negotiations with government were on when covid-19 struck. “We had even reached agreement on grade levels 1-6. The problem we had after that was the consequential adjustment, which labour and government could not reach an agreement on,” Comrade Anya stated.
He said at a point in the negotiation for consequential adjustment, the chairman of the negotiation committee, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), said he had no “authority to make any definitive offer to labour, and by then the governor had travelled, so he said until he returned there was nothing he could do.” He said when the governor eventually came back, the coronavirus lockdown set in which put on hold the process.
He said the state owes five months of salary arrears to state civil servants, while local government workers are owed 9 months and teachers 10 months. “All of these arrears are from 2017. The government does not owe workers from 2018. It jumped the unpaid salaries in 2017 after verification that the government did.
“We had already engaged government but because of the coronavirus, we could not continue but the governor had told us that he was working with the federal government to process a loan, part of which he planned to use to defray the salary arrears. The State House of Assembly had already approved the loan.
“Two weeks ago, we talked to the governor on this matter of arrears and he was still promising that he is making frantic efforts but has not made any headway because of covid-19 lockdown;” Comrade Anya said.
Borno: Implementation began in January 2020, but…
The Borno State Council Chairman, Comrade Bulama Abiso, said the new wage has been implemented at the state level since January 2020, but not yet in the local government level. He said the state government promised to pay backlog when the NLC insisted that the backlog must be paid.
According to Comrade Abiso, while negotiations were concluded in December 2019 and the implementation began in January, 2020, local government workers and primary school teachers are yet to enjoy it. “Even the N18, 000 minimum wage had not been fully implemented at that level in Borno State. At the moment, there is verification going on. Hopefully after the verification, we may get some level of implementation, either to have the full N18,000 or receive more than half of the N30,000 minimum wage;” Comrade Abiso stated.
He admitted that there is problem of unpaid gratuities in the state. “I can’t say definitely when the backlog began, but even this year, there were some payments, particularly grade levels 1-6 were paid half of their gratuities and another batch of levels 7-9 was also paid some percentages; all of which is this year. So we can’t say they stopped at so and so date, but all I know is that the backlog is too heavy, it is too much. There are efforts from the government to settle this but they seem overwhelmed.”
Cross River: Implemented but haphazardly
Comrade Benedict Ukpepi, Chairman of Cross River State Council of NLC said the state began implementation of the new wage in April this year although the are still contending with the state on what he called haphazard implementation. He said some while some workers have collected, many others workers are complaining of not receiving. “What we are fighting for now is that it is being done haphazardly,” he said.
Delta: Implementation took effect from November 2019 but…
Comrade Goodluck Ofobruku, Chairman of Delta State Council of NLC, said the new wage has been implemented and all categories of workers are already enjoying it 100% up to June. The implementation, he said, took effect from November 2019 based on the agreement between workers and the state government.
He said while the state government has been faithful in the payment to state workers, the case is different for local government workers. “It has only been implemented for levels 1-6 for local government workers, but from levels 7 and above, discussions are ongoing on how local governments will get money to implement.
“The local governments wanted to pay on percentage but we refused by stating that once NLC agrees with the state government, it must be paid in full. So they are sourcing for fund to ensure that local government workers are not left out, both local government workers and primary school teachers. Levels 1-6 have started getting theirs in full. For the state government workers, everybody is getting in full,” Comrade Ofobruku stated.
For unpaid gratuities, Comrade Ofobruku said the state government is up to date in the payment to retired junior workers on levels 1-6 while payment to those on levels 7 and above has been cleared up to 2017. “Payment to levels 7 and above has just entered 2018. This problem was inherited by the present government. When they entered in 2015, the backlog was from 2012.
“Dr Okowa started paying from 2012. If the former government was not owing when Dr Okowa administration started, he would have been up to date. He inherited a lot of liabilities including pension that the former government was not paying. While we understand the situation, we are still pressuring that he has to pay up whenever there is a windfall,” said Comrade Ofobruku.
Ebonyi: Workers not earning up to N18,000
Comrade Nwafor Ikechukwu Franklin, Chairman of Ebonyi State Council of NLC, revealed that the state government has never implemented the N18,000 minimum wage. “What they are paying Ebonyi workers presently is not even up to the N18,000, not to talk of N30,000. So here, it has not been implemented!” he said.
On unpaid gratuities, Comrade Franklin said when the present administration came on board in 2015, the former government had paid gratuity to retirees up to 2014. “They government did not pay until we had problem in 2018 going to 2019. What they did was to pay 40% of gratuity of those they captured, but there were so many they did not capture, they first paid 20% and when people started mounting pressure, the government paid 10% and after another long span, they were paid another 10% making a total of 40%.
“This system of gratuity payment is the first of its kind because there is nowhere where people’s gratuities are paid in percentage. Apart from that, the government has not made it known when and if it is going to pay the remaining 60%. Since then, nobody has been paid again, and people are retiring and it keeps piling up,” Comrade Franklin said.
Enugu: Local Govt workers, teachers and parastatals yet to enjoy new wage
The Enugu State Council Chairman of NLC, Comrade Nwobodo Virginus Chuks, said the state government commenced implementation of the new wage since February 2020 following the approval of consequential adjustment.
However, the new wage package is yet to be implemented at the local government level including for primary school teachers. Comrade Chuks said the delay at this level “is because the government is currently carrying out staff audit in that sector because the primary school teachers take their salaries from the local governments.
“The state is doing staff audit for fear of ghost workers and to know who is who. When that process is completed, they will be paid. This process also affects workers in the parastatals. They have been verified but they want to capture them biometrically. There is the fear that in some of the parastatals there may be ghost workers so the governor insisted that before the state pays them, they would like to know who they are paying in those parastatals where they fear there may be issues. If not for the covid-19 restrictions, they would have completed that process by now,” Comrade Chuks stated, adding that workers are not expecting to be paid backlog as there was no agreement on that from the time the state’s exco approved the implementation.
With regard to unpaid gratuities, Comrade Chuks noted that the government has approved N100 million monthly to upset the backlog, payment of which he said will start from the end of this month (July). “The backlog of gratuities started from 2009; they have paid up to 2010. The last exco approved money and they started paying; so when they last exco was dissolved; the governor had to wait until the new exco was constituted. They have finished the payment of 2009 and 2010, so they will now begin from 2011.”
Gombe: Implementation started but halted by covid-19
According to Comrade Muhammad Adamu, the Gombe State Council Chairman of NLC, workers had reached an agreement with the state government and implementation had commenced in February 2020 after which payment was halted following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We had reached an agreement with the state government and in fact implementation began in February but because of the covid-19, it was suspended, after just one month. The suspension was also because of the slump in crude oil price at the international market, which led to a fall in federal revenue allocation to the state,” said Comrade Adamu, who revealed that the implementation was not extended to local governments “because the local governments said they were not buoyant to implement.”
He said workers are studying the situation and would mount pressure on the state government to resume payment when revenue allocation to the state improves. “But as of this moment, we are being paid the old N18,000 minimum wage,” Adamu said adding that both state and local governments are up to date in salaries payment as well as pensions.
Imo: New wage negotiation in progress, gratuities unpaid since 1999
Comrade Austine Chilakpu, Imo State Council Chairman of NLC said negotiation of the new minimum wage is still in progress. He said a committee is in place and that the delay in the process was due to the change of government.
“As you are aware, the change of government in Imo State affected our negotiation. After Ihedioha had set up a committee, a new governor came and expectedly set up his own committee. Because he came almost when this pandemic was setting in, in January, the committee’s work has been suspended. Right now, we are trying to reconvene so that we can continue, Comrade Chilakpu stated.
The State Secretary of NLC, Comrade Ken, who corroborated the chairman’s assertion that the negotiation on the consequential adjustment has not been concluded yet, told National Record that the NLC has written to the SSG to reconvene the committee that was suspended because of the lockdown. He said as at Wednesday this week, the council has not received any response from the SSG. “We had emphasised that if committees in other states are meeting, the state shouldn’t be treated differently,” Comrade Ken said.
Comrade Ken revealed that the state government owes the council check off dues from February 2020, and as a result, the council has written through the Accountant General to the Governor to demand for payment. He said they are also awaiting response on that.
According to Comrade Ken, there is no uniform payment of salaries in the state. “The payments are staggered; staggered in the sense that there are some people that have been paid February but not paid March to April, they will be paid May.
“There is another group that has not been paid since February, especially those in the parastatals; majority of them are owed from February to June. The same thing affects primary and secondary school teachers in the state; some have been paid January, February, March; some have not gotten April, May and June; it is not uniform.
“The underlining factor is that salaries are being owed between February to June. In between this period, some are owed one month, others two months and some others three months; especially those in the parastatals; majority of whom have not received from February to June.
“In addition to this challenge, we got information that many of those paid were not paid full their salaries. This challenge of incomplete payment is not based on any uniformed percentage deduction; what happened was that a particular worker may be short paid by N10,000 or N20,000, it is not uniform. This applies to local government workers and it cuts across all the sectors of the public service in the state but the most affected are the parastatals, local government workers and primary school teachers,” Comrade Ken said.
On unpaid gratuities, Comrade Ken said: “We have made that report severally to the National Secretariat [of NLC]. Gratuity was paid last in Imo State in 1998; during the military. Since 1999 till now, gratuity has not been paid in the state. It is not as if it has been cancelled but we had taken this up with successive governments but yet they have not paid.”
Kaduna: Implemented without input from workers
Comrade Ayuba Suleiman Magaji, the state council chairman of NLC, said Kaduna State was the first to implement the new national minimum wage in the whole country, although he admitted that it was done without the involvement of worker through negotiation. “The governor just inaugurated a cabinet committee made up of three commissioners. They met and decided that there should be a minimum wage,” Comrade Magaji said. “It is okay,” he said when asked if workers have issues with the implementation.
On the reported deduction imposed by the state government, Comrade Magaji said: “The government started deduction in April and May, but we health workers, I am from Medical and Health Workers Union, and the congress at the state level, refused to join us as we wanted to have a strike. Others said they were at home and refused to join the strike.
“So we the health workers; including NMA, ARB, Medical and Health, Medical Records; we went on strike for 7 days and the governor withdrew the deductions and he has been paying workers, not only health workers, their full salaries. In June, there was no deduction but they deducted in April and May. That was when we, health workers, went on strike for the restoration of our full salaries.
“The Speaker [of the Kaduna State House of Assembly] intervened and they stopped the deductions and computed our allowances; they are going to pay us back the 25% deductions they made from our salaries for two months; that is 50%. When we discussed, they said they were going to refund.”
Comrade Magaji said the disposition of the state governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, indicates that he doesn’t want to work with labour. “We had this incident in 2016 where over 21,000 teachers were sacked, 5,000 local government workers were sacked and a good number of state workers were disengaged. Since then he has not been relating with labour,” Magaji said.
He said local government workers in the state are being paid the minimum wage and there are no arrears salaries and pension.
Kano: Began implementation December 2019, but temporarily back to N18,000
NLC’s Kano State Council Chairman, Comrade Kabiru A. Minjibir, said the state government began implementation of the new wage since December 2019 after the negotiation on the wage and consequential adjustment that was led by the Joint Negotiating Council, with NLC and TUC serving as witnesses. He said the negotiation agreed on a minimum wage of N30,600 for levels 1-6, which started since December 2019.
He said it was agreed and indicated in the agreement signed that government will pay arrears or backlog from April to November 2019 when their finances improve.
Comrade Minjibir said government was paid the full new minimum wage until May 2020 when deductions began on the ground that government witnessed shortfall in federal allocation to pay full salaries. “At the end of the day when the JNC, NLC and TUC engaged them, they agreed to refund 50% of what they deducted in the month of May. From our findings, it was like they simply returned back and paid the N18,000 minimum wage but part of the agreement we now have is that they will return back to the payment of the agreed new minimum wage; and that was what happened in the month of June, when they paid N30,600,” Comrade Minjibir said.
He said while payment of pensions is up to date, the state has outstanding gratuities, death benefits and pension arrears worth N20 billion. He said: “They have paid up to June 2016, so from July 2016 up to date, the figure of owed gratuities and death benefits is 20-point-something-billion naira. Based on our pressure on government, they have set up a committee under the Deputy Governor, which the NLC, JNC and NUP are part of. We sat severally and advised government on how to pay. The report is ready and awaiting submission to the governor.”
Kogi: Covid-19 halted negotiation
Comrade Onuh Edoka, Kogi State Chairman of NLC, said workers are on the negotiation table in a 7-person tripartite committee set up by the state government. He said negotiations were ongoing before the covid-19 pandemic began. “Since then, we have been waiting for things to improve so that the committee can reconvene,” Comrade Edoka said.
He said the state government is up to date in terms of salary payment although workers are not being paid their full salaries. “The state negotiated with organised labour that it cannot pay 100% salaries to workers. This is the third month now that we are on that arrangement. The reason is that the state government said it has been operating on what it called “overdraft” to run the system, and that the banks were no longer disposed to granting them the overdraft facility as the federal government had also told the state that it is no longer able to guarantee those overdraft because it also needed money to fight covid-19.
He said: “It is for this reason that the government said it could no longer afford to pay 100% salary. So since April, we always negotiate with the government every month to agree on what to pay.
“We agreed on 80% since April but the state paid 100% up to March for state workers, but for April, May and June, salaries have been 80%. The government agreed that it will pay the 20% difference later when things improve, so it is not like a unilateral decision taken by the state government which will not be redeemed. We will continue to study the finances of the government and once we noticed that things have improved, we will demand that the 20% be paid to workers.
“That of the local government is on a different level. They are being owed; before now they were paying them 50% of their salaries. At a point, they were on 25%; it improved to 30%, then 35% until NLC stepped in and for about a year, they were being paid 50%.
“In this period of covid-19, with the bank refusing to grant the state overdraft, their salaries have dropped back to 35% again. So the local government workers for a long time now have not been receiving 100% of their salaries. Even when Captain Wada was there, they were paid some level of percentage but it was far better than what it is now.”
Kwara: Awaiting signing before coronavirus came
Comrade Aliu Issa, the Council’s chairman of NLC said what remains to be done to begin implementation is the signing of an agreement. He said workers and the state negotiators had “basically agreed on certain things before the advent of covid-19.”
He said the main area of disagreement was the fate of local government workers in the implementation of the new wage. “Initially, the local governments were under the state and they were being paid the same amount of salaries as state workers, the salary structures were the same. But now, the governor has argued that the local governments will not be able to pay the same salary structure as the state because the local governments are now autonomous.
“He also said that until they carry out thorough auditing of the accounts of local governments, it will be impossible for them to be placed on the same salary scale as state workers. That was where we were before covid-19. We are yet to sign but we have reached an agreement.
“We are on the former minimum wage but before covid-19, the governor had told us in February that once the agreement is reached and signed, he was going to pay the arrears. The state is not owing any arrears, they are paying as and when due, and there is no deduction.
“Local government workers were owed about 8 to 9 months before the present government came in but since he came, he has been paying certain percentage of these arrears right from when he came on board;” Comrade Issa said.
Lagos: Implementation has commenced, but hitches exist
Comrade Sessi Agnes Funmilayo, the Chairperson of the Lagos State Council of NLC said the state commenced implementation of the new wage since November last year after signing an agreement to pay N35,000 as minimum wage. She also revealed that the state government agreed to pay 3 months of arrears.
Comrade Funmilayo however revealed that notwithstanding the full implementation, there exist some hitches with the implementation in some sectors in the state public service of the state such as tertiary institution sector where she noted workers are yet to benefit from the new wage regime.
“They are semi-autonomous; the government has asked them to submit every detail about the workers under them and the supervisory agencies are at the verge of implementing the minimum wage for them when covid-19 came, so up to now the new wage has not been implemented for them. So essentially, the mainstream civil servants have been implemented but some parastatals particularly the tertiary institutions, that are semi-autonomous, it has not been implemented. When they presented their budget, the government was trying to kind of verify. Local governments workers have also began to implement,” Comrade Funmilayo said.
She admitted that there issues with the payment of gratuity in the state. “Those who retired and are on PFAs [Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) under the contributory pension scheme] are the ones that government issued bonds to but those who retired and had been on the old scheme have some issues to iron out with government. The payments have been made up to 2015 but for those who retired in 2016 and 2017, government has just started issuing bonds to them,” Comrade Funmilayo stated.
Nasarawa: Implementation ‘stagnant’
The state of implementation in Nasarawa State, in the words of the NLC Council Chairman, Comrade Yusuf Sarki Iya, is stagnant.
He said negotiation had commenced with the state government making an offer to pay or adopt the federal government template for levels 1-6 while pleading with organised labour to consider the financial status of the state and waive implementation for workers on levels 7-16.
Comrade Iya said in its submission, via a documentary, organised labour tried to draw government’s attention to the inherent unfairness in that demand in view of the fact that some categories of public servants whose entry point is level 7 and above would be denied the consequential benefit that ought to accrue as a result of the wage increase.
“A nurse commences from level 7, a secondary school teacher who has NCE, starts from level 7, a secondary school teacher who has degree starts from level 8, step 2, a medical doctor starts from level 9, and so on and so forth.
“Therefore, there will be discrimination against other professions so for that reason; there is the need for them to capture virtually all the professions if truly they want to be fair without segregation. We documented this and forwarded it to them. That was where we were before covid-19 which stopped the assignment. So as of today, we have not resumed yet,” Comrade Iya said.
He said workers in the state are still on the old minimum wage of N18,000. “But we had agreed with the state government that upon implementation, the government was going to pay backlog. Whenever we discuss with them, we always tried to draw their attention to that provision on the payment of backlog of arrears with even interest equivalent to prevailing bank charges. We always tell them but they have never said anything,” Comrade Iya said.
On the fate of local government workers, Iya said whenever negotiation on minimum wage in Nasarawa State was being done, it was concurrently done on behalf of both state and local government workers.
He added that the state owes workers so many months of salary arrears. “For state workers, it is four months, which we are presently discussing on how they will be paid, although it was inherited from the previous government – August 2016, then May, June and July 2017. For 2018, 2019 and up to now in 2020, the state government is up to date.
“For the local government, there are 23 months of arrears. Sometimes the state government paid 70%, sometimes 50%, other times 30%. So when we consolidated the percentages that were paid and deducted them from the total percentages paid, we have outstanding arrears of 23 months. For the local government workers, April and May this year, they were paid 75%,” said Comrade Iya.
Niger: Implemented for state, local govt workers up to levels 1-6
Comrade Yakubu Garba, Niger State Council Chairman of NLC, told National Record that the new wage and the consequential adjustment have been implemented in Niger State at the state level and also at the local government level, from levels 1-6, with the consequential at the local level still outstanding.
Comrade Yakubu also stated that the payment of gratuities and pension remains problematic in Niger state as in other states. “When we came in, the government was paying but not 100% as we would have wanted. There are a lot of workers who are owed. What the government has paid are the lump sums and they did that twice under my leadership; they had paid earlier and so that has reduced a lot of tension in that area,” said Comrade Yakubu, while also highlighting a challenge in the operation of the contributory pension scheme in the state.
“The issue of contributory pension scheme is the one that we are now on; government wants to resume but we are saying that there are things that we want government to do so that they can plug the loopholes; they wanted to resume this month but we rejected that until certain things have been cleared.
“Previously, before I came on board, the contribution was suspended for almost 6 years, although they were not deducting; it was just suspended; both that of government and civil servants. They intended resuming but because of the fear of what happened in the previous time, so we said no; they should wait first until we are actually sure of the liability within the gap because there is an understanding with the government that when we resume, the government will take the responsibility of paying the gaps.
“So we want to know between that 2015, we want to know the gaps, how much is involved. Secondly, we want to know exactly what happened by refund because there were people that were exempted. Anybody that was employed in 1992 upward were exempted from the contributory pension scheme; so automatically what they have contributed from the other scheme has to be refunded; so that agitation was also there too; we wanted to see how far they have gone on that before we agree on that,” Comrade Yakubu said.
Ogun: There is an agreement yet to be implemented
Workers and the state government have reached an agreement although implementation is yet to commence, says Comrade Bankole Abimbola Emmanuel, Chairman of Ogun State Council of NLC. He said the government was at the verge of commencing implementation when covid-19 crisis came and as such we have had delays.
“But as it is, both parties agreed that that agreement is sacrosanct; it is to commence from January. What that means is that the arrears have been accumulating since January. Right now, we are still on the old minimum wage,” Comrade Emmanuel said adding that there is no dichotomy between state workers and local government workers in the state in terms of wage implementation. “We are all public servants in Ogun State,” Comrade Emmanuel emphasised.
He state that the state government owes pensioners so many months of arrears. “In the administration of Otunba Daniel, the state only remitted pension deductions for only 6 months out of the 8 years. That meant that the deductions that were supposed to be remitted to PFAs were not. That is a huge amount that runs into billions,” Emmanuel said, adding that there are also issues of outstanding gratuity for retired workers at both the state and local governments since 2012, for local governments’ workers, and 2013 for state’s.
He also revealed that leave bonuses are also outstanding from 2014 to date. “This new government also owes about 7 months of cooperative deductions which have not been remitted to the various cooperatives societies.
“We have written to government about all these outstanding payments and our last discussion was that a committee of labour and government be constituted to see how all these outstanding payments can be liquidated. The government has asked for our nominees and we have submitted names for organised labour, so we are expecting government to inaugurate that committee so that it can start work.
“The committee is to look at all these outstanding payments and agree with government on how it will be defraying it monthly as it appears practically impossible to pay them at once, so that over a period of time, they can be cleared.
“So in a way, the state government may be paying the whole salaries but these deductions that have been made without remittance, translates to not paying salaries in full; those deductions, naturally, are part and parcel of workers legitimate earnings,” Comrade Emmanuel said.
Osun: State at the verge of implementation
Comrade Jacob Adekomi has stated that the Osun State government was at the verge of signing the agreement that would have commenced the new national minimum wage in the state when covid-19 pandemic started. Comrade Adekomi, who is NLC’s Osun State Council Chairman, told National Record that the workers will soon demand for the resumption of the process for signing and implementation. He said the government is ready to pay the minimum wage to its workforce.
He said there are 15 months’ outstanding salaries and pension arrears from the last administration during the time of payment of modulated salary and pensions. In addition to this, he said the current government owes workers 5 months in deductions made from their salaries.
Oyo: Implemented and up-to-date
Oyo State commenced implementation with effect from January, said Comrade Sikiru Bayo Titilola-Sodo, the Oyo State chairman of NLC, who stated with emphasis that workers are not owed any arrears. “Salaries and all arrears have been paid; that is what I meant by no arrears, and they have been paid up to date; we are up to date, June salaries were paid on the 26th of last month [June 2020],” Comrade Titilola-Sodo said.
He however admitted that there are other issues related to unpaid allowances and gratuities. He said gratuities are not being paid in some sectors for 8 years. “This government has just started paying, the government is paying 2013 now; every month for civil service retirees, and quarterly for the primary school and local government retirees,” said Comrade Titilola-Sodo.
Plateau: Agreement reached, signed and ready
Comrade Eugene Manji, Plateau State Council chairman of the NLC said agreement had been reached, signed and ready for implementation in March 2020 before the outbreak of covid-19 pandemic. “The implementation was suspended in the interim because of the effects of the economic crisis,” he said while also revealing that there is now one salaries table for both the state and local governments.
He also said that the state and local government workers as well as pensioners are currently not owed arrears of salaries and pension just as they are paid in full and not in percentages.
He however revealed that gratuities have accumulated although the state government is “paying sparingly”.
Rivers: It’s still the same old story
When contacted via whatsapp for inquiries on the state of affairs with respect to the minimum wage implementation in Rivers State, Comrade (Mrs) Beatrice Itubo, the State Council Chairperson of NLC, simply responded: “It’s still the same old story. Instead of talking to labour the government has dragged organised labour to industrial court. So we are just waiting for the total ease of the lockdown.”
According to Comrade (Mrs) Itubo, the governor accused the state’s workers of embarking on an illegal strike. “He said the strike action we embarked upon is illegal. That we didn’t exhaust the negotiation processes. We are not deterred, we shall continue to demand and protect the rights of workers,” Comrade Itubo stated.
National Record had in May this year reported how the state government had cracked down on organised labour in the state, hounding labour leaders and shutting down the state secretariat of the NLC following a one-week strike by workers in demand for the state government to set up a committee to negotiate a template for the implementation of the new national minimum wage.
“They government threatened us that we were going to live to regret our audacity to give directive to them. Before we know what was happening, on the night of Sunday, 2nd February, the security guards at the secretariat called to inform us that security officers have sealed the place.
“It was on the following morning, being Monday that an official called to inform me that that there are some issues with the process of approval for the building and that they wanted to do integrity test on it. Since that time till today, nobody has entered into that premises as they have not opened the place. But we know why and where this is coming from,” Comrade (Mrs) Itubo had told National Record in May.
Taraba: Waiting for covid-19 pandemic to end
Comrade Peter Gambo, the Taraba State Council Chairman of NLC said the new minimum wage is yet to be implemented in the state though a committee, which was set up, had finished its work and submitted the report.
“We were told that because of the coronavirus, the state should be given three months. The three months elapsed in June,” Comrade Gambo stated, adding that workers are still on the old minimum wage of N18,000.
He said the state workers are paid up to date while those under the employment of local governments, including primary school teachers are owed arrears of two months.
While stating that pensions are paid as and when due, Comrade Gambo said workers who left service are owed gratuities since 2010.
Efforts to speak to all the state councils of the NLC on the state of implementation of the new national minimum wage across the country failed as we could not reach Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Edo, Ekiti, Katsina, Kebbi, Ondo, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara states councils for comments. Calls to some of the chairpersons didn’t simply go through, other went through but rang out while a few who picked said they were engaged and would call back, but probably forgot to do so as at the time of going to press.