Wages Commission Set to Sanction Violators of Minimum Wage Act, As NLC Yet to Implement New Wage

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THE National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) has said it would soon begin monitoring the implementation of the National Minimum Wage Act 2019 which increased the minimum wage for Nigerian workers from N18,000 to N30,000. The Commission also said it will sanction those violating the act by not paying their employees.

Mr Nta, Esq, Executive Chairman NSIWC

The Executive Chairman of NSIWC, Mr Ekpo Nta (Esq), disclosed this at a news conference in Abuja on Thursday. He stated that the monitoring exercise would be an interagency collaboration which will also gather evidence of compliance and difficulties being faced by stakeholders in the implementation of the new wage regime in order to advise all employers, including governments, at all levels.

According to the Executive Chairman, the monitoring would allow for early planning for the review of the National Minimum Wage Act so that all stakeholders would know the difficulties involved for better planning.

Mr Nta noted that after the exercise, organisations, agencies and departments that have complied fully in the implementation of the new wage would be put on honours list while those that have defied without good reason would face sanction.

“For those who have complied fully will be put on honours list and sanction those who have not and have no good reason.”

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted Mr Nta stating that the commission was collating real time data in collaboration with the National Bureau of Statistic (NBS), “so that we can render advice to government at the federal, state, and local government levels and private sectors in the formulation of remuneration policies.”

The commission, Nta said, has carried out remuneration survey in the private health sector, private tertiary education institutions and selected universities in collaboration with the National Universities Commission (NUC) in phase one, and that phase two would cover the private tertiary polytechnics and colleges of education.

“The reason was to compare how much they are paid, allowances, and the services they render, among others, in the private health and education sectors that have ensured industrial peace,” Nta said, adding that the commission collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Health and issued a circular in October for the health sector requesting the updated statistics of staff in federal hospitals, medical centres, clinics in ministries, departments and agencies in the first phase, and that the second phase would cover the private health sector.

“This will greatly assist the commission in its manning levels and computation of remuneration cost implications and all ministries, department and agencies are enjoined to cooperate with the commission to ensure success of these and other exercises as they come up.”

He said that the commission also was not limited to only remuneration issues, as it carries out productivity improvement schemes. He commended journalists for their constant support in their reportage and urged them to maintain the good job.

NLC Still Evading Payment of New Wage Almost 3 Years After Enactment
Checks by National Record indicate that almost three years after the enactment of existing national minimum wage act, the biggest trade union centre in Nigeria, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), whose core responsibility it is to ensure that its members enjoy, among other benefits, a decent wage, is yet to implement the new wage for its own staff.

Comrade Wabba, NLC President

National Record had reported in May 2021 that the current national minimum wage was passed by the National Assembly on March 19, 2019 and transmitted on April 2, 2019 to President Muhammadu Buhari, who signed it into law on April 18, 2019.

National Record had reported how the staff of the NLC were agitating for the implementation of the new wage which they said was being unduly delayed, a situation the centre’s staff said was happening for the first time in NLC’s history.

ALSO READ: NLC Staff May Go on Strike Over Non-Implementation of Minimum Wage

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Just How Much is the Minimum Wage?

Distortions in the Minimum Wage Debate

According to the staff, in the history of minimum wage implementation, the NLC had always commenced implementation of every new wage negotiated, in the case of military governments, or legislated on, in the case of democratic governance, almost immediately.

The staff had grumbled then that two years after enactment into law, and after the federal government and some states, including the FCT, had commenced full implementation, the NLC was still violating the law by denying its own workers that it used to mount pressure on other stakeholders to enact the law.

Several staff of the NLC on Friday confirmed that the Comrade Ayuba Wabba leadership of NLC is yet to decide on whether it would pay the new wage, let alone pay arrears, which they (NLC staff) said would increase to 32 months by the end of next month, December.

Asked if they would be embarking on strike on the matter, all the staff spoken to, and who pleaded anonymity for fear of persecution, said the staff union at the headquarters of Congress is weak and lacks the capacity to mount pressure on the leadership.

“We have no voice here; we are operating here (NLC headquarters) like slaves. The union leaders, and the union as a collective, lack the courage to raise the issue in the manner that is representative of our wishes and conveys the desires of every staff.

“I know that many of the staff are willing to also shut down the secretariat of Congress because of this lingering minimum wage issue, but the leadership of the in-house union, led by Comrade James Eustace, has not allowed us to show the Comrade Wabba leadership the brand of activism that has made the NLC renown in the imagination of Nigerians decades ago. It is tragic,” one of the staff told National Record Friday morning.

When contacted, Comrade James Eustace, Chairperson of the NLC Unit of the Nigerian Civil Service Union (NCSU), to which the staff of NLC belong, said he was in a meeting. He asked this reporter to call him back by 3pm. “Well, it is not convenient for me now; I am in a meeting. Call me, may be, after 3pm,” Comrade Eustace said.

When contacted as at press time which was some minutes to 4pm, Comrade Eustace neither picked this reporter’s call nor return it.

The Acting General Secretary of NLC, Comrade Ismail Bello, when called, apologised for not responding to several of our past inquiries. “Don’t be angry; I keep seeing some of your messages but you know; my hands are also full. As I am speaking with you, I am in the middle of a meeting, but I don’t like to ignore calls all the time; that’s the truth; but at the same time, when I get a call and I am in a meeting, there is a limit to which I can respond to issues.”

But when the reporter told him that this call was to inquire on the status of implementation of the 2019 national minimum wage by the NLC and that the staff are still grumbling, Comrade Bello quickly said he was in a meeting and asked the reporter to call back “much, much later in the day.”

“My brother, you know that I told you I am in a meeting and I don’t like to speak to issues when I could be distracted; maybe we can speak later in the day; I am not sure now of the time; you know today is Friday; a lot of issues, a lot things; I will go to the Mosque and all of that; much, much later in the day.”

When ‘much later’, at about 4:05pm, our reporter got back to Comrade Bello, he said he had gone from the meeting to a workshop.

All efforts to reach Comrade Wabba, President of NLC, and President of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), failed as his mobile numbers were unreachable.

Minimum Wage Act criminalises non-payment of new wage regime
Perhaps, unknown to many workers and trade union leaders, the non-implementation of the National Minimum Wage Act is an offence punishable with specified penalties.

Section 9 of the Act criminalises failure of employers’ compliance with the new wage regime, with penalties of a fine and the payment of all arrears.

Section 9, subsection 2 reads: “Any employer who fails to comply with subsection 1 commits an offence and is liable on conviction to pay – (a) a fine not exceeding 5% of the offender’s monthly wage; (b) all outstanding arrears of the workers’ wages; and (c) an additional penalty of not less than the prevailing Central Bank of Nigeria lending rate on the wages owed, for each month of a continuing violation, provided that the power to order payment on account of wages under subsection (2) shall not derogate from the right of the worker to recover wages due to him by any other proceeding in a court of competent jurisdiction.”

The act also states that an officer authorised by the Minister of Labour shall serve a notice of enforcement to employers who fail to pay the minimum wage and where they still do not comply, in part or in whole, the matter shall be referred to the National Industrial Court.

Will Nigerian workers and trade unions resort to litigation in order to force recalcitrant employers violating the Minimum Wage Act to comply?

 

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