Negotiations over consequential salary adjustments on the N30,000 minimum wage may run into a storm in states as the Nigeria Governors’ Forum on Monday said states would not pay above their capacities.
The Chairman of the NGF and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who stated this after the forum’s meeting in Abuja said the Federal Executive Council could not decide for states.
But organised labour lashed out at the NGF chairman and warned him against statements that could trigger industrial crises in states.
Fayemi said the governors, at their meeting, reviewed progress in the implementation of the minimum wage law.
Clarifying the forum’s position and FEC’s decision, Fayemi said that while state governors agreed on the N30, 000 minimum wage, FEC did not determine what happened in states.
He said that each state had its executive council, which is the highest decision-making body at the state level.
Fayemi stated, “The forum as the representative body of the states keenly followed what happened in the negotiations that led to that template.
“As far as we are concerned, the best the forum can do is to stick with what has been agreed with the states. States are part of the tripartite negotiations.
“The FEC does not determine what happens at the states. Each state has an executive council which is the highest decision-making organ in the state.
“As far as we are concerned, the states were part of the tripartite discussion and agreed to the N30,000 minimum wage.
“States also know there will be consequential adjustments, but that will be determined by what happens on the state by state basis because there are different numbers of workers at states. There are different issues at states level. Every state has its own trade unions and joint negotiations committee and they will undertake discussions with their state governments.”
The governor said there was a difference between the national minimum wage increase and the general wage review.
Fayemi said, “This is about minimum wage increment; yes that may necessitate consequential increment, there is no doubt about it, but that is a matter between the states and their workers.”
“The day after this agreement was reached with labour, it was on record that I was on a national television and made the position of the governors clear. That for us this was a national minimum wage increase, not a general minimum wage review. Yes, that may necessitate consequential increment, we have no doubt about that but that it is a matter for the states to discuss with their workers,’’ he said
Labour awaits template from FG
But as of Monday the organised labour was still awaiting the table for consequential adjustments from the Federal Government.
Wages commission yet to get govt’s directive
But The PUNCH learnt that the National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission had yet to get a directive from the Federal Government to release the guidelines for the implementation of the new minimum wage.
A top official in the commission confided in one of our correspondents that the guidelines would be issued when a formal directive was received from either the Presidency or the Office of the Head of Service.
The official, who pleaded not to be named as he was not officially permitted to speak on the matter said, “There are processes involved in the implementation of the new minimum wage and one of them is the release of the guidelines by the wages commission.
“We have yet to receive a directive from either the Presidency or the Office of Head of Service to release the guidelines.
“The directive from the Federal Government will tell us what was agreed with labour and based on that, we will work out the guidelines.”
The Secretary General of the NLC, Emma Ugboaja, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the organised labour was waiting for the release of necessary documents by the Federal Government before sending guidelines for negotiations to its state chapters.
Ugboaja said, “The guidelines have not been released yet. We are waiting to get the official table from the Federal Government. Hopefully, it will be released before the end of the week.”
Labour lashes out at Fayemi, says N30,000 sacrosanct
The NLC also berated Fayemi, who said the next level of negotiations would be determined by the strength of each state workforce and issues in the states.
The NLC Secretary General, Ugboaja, who spoke to The PUNCH, said no state could discard the fact that a minimum wage of N30,000 would be at the centre of every negotiation.
He noted, “Everybody will negotiate differently based on the state economy but what is sacrosanct is the minimum wage of N30,000 and how that will be adjusted across the board is the function of collective bargaining between the workforce and government.”
On its part, the Trade Union Congress said there was an assurance from the Federal Government that the official template for the adjustments would be released to labour this week.
The Secretary General of the union, Origi Musa-Lawal, who spoke on behalf of the union president, Quadri Olaleye, who is out of the country, however cautioned Fayemi over any statement that could trigger agitation in the labour ranks.
He said, “The state governments are only playing games. They were represented in the minimum wage committee. They cannot come around to deny their responsibility. They are simply courting labour anger and we are ready for them.
“Guidelines have not been released by the Federal Government but certainly, we have assurances that the template will soon be released.”
Labour and the Federal Government had on October 18, 2019, reached an agreement on the consequential adjustments in workers’ salaries arising from the new wage structure after about six months of negotiation.
Both parties agreed on 23.2 percentage increase for workers at grade level 07; 20 per cent for those at grade level 08; 19 per cent for workers at grade level 09; 16 per cent for those at levels 10 to 14; and 14 per cent for workers at grade levels 15 to 17.
At the end of the leadership conference of the NLC in Enugu last week, the first Deputy President of the NLC, Amaechi Asuguni, said state chapters had been directed not to rush into negotiations with their governments.
He had said the table on the consequential adjustments would be provided to them as a guide.
He had said, “The agreement has been reached, a table will be worked out at the federal level and sent to the states. We want a table that will be brought out to be guidelines so that state councils will not go and start formulating different tables, so that there will be a minimum standard.
“The headquarters of the NLC will guide the states so that they will work within the benchmark of the table so that we don’t have a staggered or any how agreement by the state government and the labour.”
Govs to submit report on excess crude account, others to NEC today
Meanwhile, the Governor Nasiru El-Rufai-led ad hoc committee on Excess Crude Account and other Special Accounts will submit its report to the National Economic Council today (Tuesday) in Abuja.
Fayemi disclosed this on Monday in Abuja during a meeting of the NGF. “I understand he wants to submit that report tomorrow to the national economic council. It is not a committee set up by the NGF so we are not expecting any report. It is a committee set up by the NEC,” he said.
In a communiqué issued after the meeting, the forum commended the rapid response of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency to arrest the August yellow fever outbreak in the country.
Fayemi said the governors had pledged to commit counterpart resources to strengthen mass vaccination campaigns in their respective states.
“Members commended the progress made by state governments through their Social Health Insurance Authorities to enrol and provide health insurance cover for citizens across the country.
“In the last one year, state governments have registered over two million people compared with five million Nigerians registered under the National Health Insurance Scheme over the last 14 years.
“Finally, the forum remembered Dr Stella Adedavoh, the physician who attended to ‘Patient O’ during the Ebola outbreak in 2014 in Lagos State. Dr Adedavoh died from Ebola virus on October 21, 2014, but her memory lives on with the dream of ‘Healthcare for all Nigerians’.”
At the meeting were governors Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo); Dapo Abiodun (Ogun); Seyi Makinde (Oyo); Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto); El-Rufai (Kaduna); Emeka Ihedioha (Imo); Gboyega Oyetola (Osun); and Samuel Ortom (Benue), among others.