The excitement which greeted President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent to the N30,000 National Minimum Wage Law seems to be giving way to pessimism and mistrust as the federal government and organised labour trade blames over the delay in its implementation.
At stake in the current dispute between the executive arm of government and the workers is the delay in the implementation of the “consequential adjustment” of the new wage.
While the government accuses labour of making unrealistic demands, the workers fired back that the Muhammadu Buhari administration, which started well on the wage matter, is half-way into it, looking for scapegoats.
The chairman, National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC), Chief Richard Egbule, brought the irreconcilable differences between the government and labour on the issue yesterday when he claimed that the demands of the labour unions would raise the total wage bill too high and that was why the government could not accept their proposed salary adjustments.
Egbule said: “Labour is asking for consequential adjustment and government in its wisdom had made budgetary provision for an adjustment of N10, 000 across board for those already earning above N30, 000 per month.
“However, the unions have refused this offer, saying that because the increase in minimum wage from N18,000 to N30, 000 was 66 per cent, therefore they want 66 per cent increment across board.
“We told them that the minimum wage was not raised from N18,000 to N30,000 through percentage increase but as a result of the consideration of economic factors including ability to pay.
“However, we said that if they want consequential adjustments in percentage terms, we will use a percentage that when applied will not exceed what has been provided for in the budget.
“The computation based on percentage which government had given to labour was 9.5 per cent from level 7 to 14 including level 1-6 of those salary structures that did not benefit from the minimum wage.
“And then five per cent from level 15 to 17. Labour countered the offer and proposed 30 per cent increase for level 7 to 14 and 25 per cent for level 15 to 17.
“One point we keep repeating is, it will be unfair that because you gave the person earning minimum wage N12,000, you give a level 17 officer almost N100,000 if you apply 25 per cent,’’ he said.
Egbule said that at the last meeting between the federal government and the labour unions, the government proposed a 10 per cent increment for level seven to 14 and a 5.5 per cent increase for level 15 to 17.
He therefore advised labour to come to a compromise because the government had so far been magnanimous in agreeing to increase salaries without any threat of downsizing.
“Labour is currently stretching out and eating up the time that people could have used in benefiting from the adjustment because the new minimum wage was implemented since April. My advice is for labour to accept the terms for now and prepare to fight for the harmonisation of salaries that is coming up. Harmonisation of salaries will take care of this issue.
“The committee has already been formed and awaiting inauguration. I want them (labour) to know this and liberate us from this unnecessary log jam,” he said.
Egbule reiterated the commission’s commitment to giving sound advice to the government on the area of national income that should be devoted to the payment of salaries and wages.
FG Looking For Whom To Blame – Labour
In a swift reaction to the government’s allegations, the first deputy national secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Bola Audu Innocent, accused the government of creating confusion just to delay the implementation of the new minimum wage.
He said that the government was looking for who to blame for the confusion it created on the matter.
According to him, Egbule is not telling Nigerians the truth about the cause of the delay.
Innocent alleged that the government proposed to add N10,000 across board to all levels of workers “which is unacceptable to labour.”
He said: “What we wanted them to do, is to look at the percentage and add across board. The N10,000 Egbule is adding is alien. Mr. President didn’t tell us he is adding N10,000 across board when he signed the new minimum wage.”
Innocent explained that the increment from N18,000 to N30,000 represents about 65 per cent. But labour has to come down to 30 per cent when the government said that it does not have the resources.
The TUC official said that labour was aware that the government has budgeted N160billion for the new minimum wage and urged Egbule to explain that the money was not enough to pay the new salary from April to the end of the year.
He said: “They are creating confusion so they can delay it. It’s not labour’s fault. We have been considerate. Labour is ready to see this to a logical conclusion, we have a time frame that we have given to them. If that is not achieved, we have the instrumentality with which we can use to compel them to pay.”
How Workers’ Salaries Are Determined, By Wages Commission
Meanwhile, NSIWC has explained that salaries and other remunerations of government workers are based on the difficulty of the jobs and skills required for them.
Egbule told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja yesterday that the commission usually carries out job assessments before coming out with a befitting pay policy for any agency.
“The pay policy must take into consideration the actual work done by people; it’s not about your training or because you went to school and you have so many degrees.
“If a job has been cut out, what are you expected to do on that job and what does the job require before you can execute it? We have to do a job evaluation to know all these things.
“When a job is properly evaluated, no matter where you work, if you do the same thing at that level, you should be remunerated equally. That is the concept of equal pay for the work of substantially equal value,’’ he said.
Egbule added that having a salary structure had made it possible for everybody on the same grade level, no matter the agency, to have the same basic salary.
He explained that the differences in salaries of different agencies were mostly from allowances, due to the nature of the work some of them do.
“This is a very popular question. Some even go as far as saying that we go to the same market but why do we receive different salaries? My attitude to this question is simple. Pay for jobs done is not determined at the market square.
“What determines differences in salary is the work you do. The work you do is central to the issue of pay disparity.
“People who work in different sectors may have different challenges. Anybody exposed to risks or some kind of hazards will be remunerated specifically for this through some level of allowances.
“For instance, in the oil sector, if you are an engineer and you work in NNPC, the kind of competence acquired there is what other competitors of NNPC like Cheveron, Shell, etc will require.
“If NNPC does not pay like Cheveron or Shell, definitely their staff will be poached.
“Also, the work of an engineer at NNPC is different from the one who works at the civil service. Therefore, you cannot expect to be paid like the engineer in the oil prospecting sector,’’ he said.
Egbule assured the public that the commission was prudent in fixing salaries for government institutions across sectors.
He enumerated the salary structures obtainable in the Nigerian public service are as Consolidated Public Service Salary Structure (CONPSS), Consolidated Tertiary Education Institutions Salary Structure (CONTEDISS) and Consolidated Top Public Office Holders Salary Structure (CONTOPSAL).
There are also Consolidated Polytechnics and Colleges of Education Academic Salary Structure (CONPCASS), Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS), Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) and Consolidated Armed Forces Salary Structure (CONAFSS).
The rest are the Consolidated Police Salary Structure (CONPOSS), Consolidated Paramilitary Salary Structure (CONPASS), Consolidated Intelligence Community Salary Structure (CONICSS), and the Treasury-funded Establishments on Special Salary Structures.
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