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EDITORIAL

Avert The Looming Strike

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The organised labour under the aegis of the Trade Union Side (TUS) of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC), the eight Unions in the Public Services of the federal and 36 state governments have recently alerted Nigerians that labour may be forced to embark on industrial action if the current state of affairs as regards the issue of consequential adjustment arising from the new national minimum wage of N30, 000.00 per month is not addressed.

We recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had signed into law the new minimum wage two years after setting up the Tripartite Committee on the issue. Curiously on May 15, the federal government inaugurated a committee to negotiate with public servants the consequential adjustment in salaries arising from the implementation of the new national minimum wage.

This was after appointing Bismarck Rewane as head of the newly inaugurated Technical Advisory Committee on the implementation of the National Minimum Wage. The terms of reference for the Rewane committee include to develop and advise government on how to successfully bring about a smooth implementation of wage increases and identify new revenue sources, as well as areas of existing expenditure from where some savings could be made in order to fund the wage increases without adversely impacting the nation’s development goals as set out in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

Others are to propose a work plan and modalities for the implementation of the salary increases, and any other suggestions that may assist in the implementation of this and future wage increases. The committee had on March 12 submitted its report to the President.

This Newspaper is worried about the vacillation of the federal government on the implementation of the law. The payment of the new wage ought to have commenced immediately after the President’s assent to the bill. According to labour leaders, the TUS had initially proposed that since the minimum wage was increased by 66.66 per cent, i.e. from N18, 000.000 to N30, 000.00, salaries for officers on Grade Levels 01-17 should be adjusted accordingly to maintain the relativity that exists in the salary structure in the public service.

However, TUS claimed to have received a rude shock at the last meeting of the technical committee when the government side began to hold on to a non-existent position that the Technical Committee’s term of reference was to base its assignment in respect of salary adjustment on what was provided for the subject in the 2019 budget.

The implication of government’s position, in TUS opinion, was that the Technical Committee cannot go beyond what the government was pushing for, which is 9.5 per cent salary increase for officers on GL 07-14 and 5 per cent for those on GL 15-17.

In the light of this, we are of the view that the minimum wage should be implemented according to the agreement signed with organised labour. All considered, it is the appropriate thing to do if the present economic realities are taken into account.

From this perspective, we are compelled to suggest that minimum wage should be moved from the exclusive to concurrent legislative list. It makes no  economic sense for all the states to be paying the same amount to their workers when the resources available and the standard of living in each state varies remarkably.

Ideally, each state should be allowed to pay its workers what it can afford. In a report last year by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, Lagos State’s N382 billion 2018 earnings dwarfed the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR)  of 29 states. This was followed by Rivers and Ogun states with N112.78 billion and N84.55 billion respectively in 2018. The FCT was next with IGR of N65.51 billion while Delta and Kano had N58.43 billion and N44.1 billion respectively.

Similarly, Katsina followed suit with N6.96 billion; Adamawa, N6.2 billion; Borno, N6.52 billion; Ekiti, N6.46 billion; Zamfara, N8.2 billion and Taraba N5.96 billion. It stands to reason, therefore, that a state like Lagos with an IGR of N382 billion should not be expected to pay the same minimum wage as Taraba which generated a paltry N5 billion.

We submit that in order to avoid the impending industrial action over minimum wage, states should be allowed to determine their minimum wage before the next review is due.

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