Minimum Wage Reduction: Nigerian Workers Lambast Governors, Threaten Showdown
‘Minimum Wage Reduction Is Not Acceptable To Workers’
Following dwindling revenue and monthly allocation accruable to states of the federation, caused by the fall in oil prices, which the state governors alluded to recently as the reason for their call for a reduction in the N18, 000 minimum wage, workers in Imo state have strongly condemned the governors’ move.
Speaking to The Guardian in Owerri, the state capital, the State Chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) Mr. Austin Chilakpu, his counterpart in the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Hyacinth Emele and president of Imo Youth movement (IYM) Mr. Ambrose Amadi said the proposal was completely inhuman, lamenting that when the workers were looking forward to an increment in salaries and allowances, the governors who are already comfortable in all ramifications are planning on reducing salaries.
They insist that such reduction is not acceptable to the workers. They opined that any issue of salary reduction has to be done in the tripartite form, between the employers (government), the workers and the labour leaders.
Chilapku said: “Anything concerning salary must involve the Salaries and Wages Commission, representatives of the employers and the labour leaders. They have no right to reduce workers’ salaries as they wish.
Since the national body of the NLC has opposed the plan, this is the stand of the state chapter.
Emele also lamented the sorry situation of doctors in the public sector. He regretted that for nine months, doctors employed in the public health institutions were yet to be paid by the Imo state government, on account of their alleged refusal to allow the public hospitals to be concessions by the state government.
“How can they be talking about reducing the N18,000 minimum wage when we are talking about upward review in line with the economic reality. Some workers have not received September nor October salaries. NLC is saying the present minimum wage is too small and not enough. How can they now talk about reducing it?” Emele asked.
In his own remarks, Amadi urged the workers to resist the governors’ plan, stressing that it is not justifiable.
“We all have brothers and sisters and relations who are government workers. We are also aware that they are just managing to survive with the N18,000 minimum wage. How can the government talk about reducing it when workers are saying that it is not enough?”
Also speaking, a worker at the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment in the state, John Agbo said that he would never accept the
reduction. He likened the present crop of governors in Nigeria as a set of people who apparently have no leadership vision.
Nobody Should Tamper With Minimum Wage, Says A’Ibom NLC President Inemesit Akpan-Nsoh Uyo
The recent call by governors in the country that N18,000 minimum wage of workers be reviewed has created a lot of confusion and apprehension among workers in the country and Akwa Ibom state in particular. Confusion because most of the workers believed that such call for a review of the minimum wage should be for the increase and not decrease.
Commenting on it, the Akwa Ibom state Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress NLC, Comrade Etim Ukpong said that N18,000 minimum wage is sacrosanct.
“Our position is clear. Nobody should tamper with the N18, 000 minimum wages. It is a law that has come to stay. NLC was contemplating for an upward review, following the inflation rate in the country.
“We are prepared for a showdown with the state governors if they try such. Akwa Ibom state government has not said anything on the issue. It is not likely that they will tamper with N18,000 minimum wage.
“It is not acceptable. Labour is against it, we reject it totally. They should not even consider it. There are so many things they can do to have enough money for development,” Ukpong said.
On whether the state governor has been paying the minimum wage regularly, the labour union leader said the state government is living up to its responsibility by paying regularly, but, however, added that it was only in the area of leave grants, gratuities and pension that the government was not up to date especially, as it concerns the primary school teachers.
Ukpong’s predecessor, Comrade Uyime Usoro said that no state government should consider review of salary downward, instead they should consider reviewing funds spent in the running of government, which in most cases have no direct impact on the people.
Most workers who spoke with The Guardian at the state secretariat doubted the veracity of the information, saying it is unthinkable for any governor to say such thing at this period. However, they noted that the Akwa Ibom state governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel with his private sector background couldn’t think of a pay cut.
They confirmed that workers have been placed on alert, should any governor go ahead to reduce the minimum wage. They reasoned that with the hardship they were already facing, any cut in their wage would mean adding more salt to injury.
‘It Is Not Enough For Workers To Survive With’
From Tina Todo, Calabar
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Cross River Council and civil servants in the state have rejected in totality plans by governors to reduce the minimum wage of N18, 000.
The state Chairman of NLC, Mr. John Ushie said the N18,000 minimum wage is not even enough for workers.
Ushie condemned the call by the governors, describing it as a move to render the civil servants helpless.
Citing the case of numerous government appointees who received up to N1million as minimum wage, the Labour leader queried why such money should be paid to these persons if the government was considering reducing salaries of the poor workers.
He said: “The governors cannot say that they cannot pay the N18, 000 minimum wage. The minimum wage is not even enough to take the workers home in the first place and therefore if they go ahead to say they won’t be able to pay the minimum wage how about the appointees, how are they going to pay them? On whether the state has been paying the N18, 000 Minimum wage, Ushie disclosed that Cross river state has been implementing the N18,000 minimum wage since 2011.
“We are among the first state to implement it. But that is not an issue because the state government has no option than to pay the minimum wage because former President Jonathan signed it into law.
“They were the ones who reduced it to N18, 000, the labour proposed N52,000 or there about as minimum wage, but the governors reduced it so that they can comfortably pay. It was what they approved. It was not approved by labour union.”
Describing the situation as ironical, he said: “Government supposed to have opened discussion for the review of a new wage upward as part of 2010 minimum wage agreement, rather government is reneging on the agreement which states that wages will be reviewed upward every five years. We cannot understand the rationale for the planned downward review.
On his part, the State Chairman Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Pastor Ndoma Akpet said the decision by the governors to reduce the minimum wage was unrealistic, stressing that such decision would only destroy the economy more.
Akpet Ukom, a civil servant in the state noted, “I think that the governors’ decision is unrealistic. We should even be talking about bringing the minimum wage upward in view of the economic realities.
“If you look at the foreign exchange rate you will see that naira has lost great value from the time minimum wage was fixed, so contemplating reducing it means they are not in touch with reality.
However, the Cross River state government has promised that they will reduce taxes of people who earn from N30, 000 down, but that has not been implemented. “The governor has not started implementing it. He said it was a special executive bill that will be passed into law.
‘It Is Unthinkable And Inappropriate’
From Joseph Wantu, Makurdi.
Benue state workers have strongly condemned the recent call by governors for reduction of the N18,000 minimum wage, describing it as unthinkable and inappropriate
Condemning the call, the state chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Godwin Anya told The Guardian that such thinking is inappropriate in the face of high cost of living in the country.
“I don’t think such idea is appropriate, the cost of living is high. Workers have no other thing than the salary,” Anya said.
The NLC Chairman posited that labour laws made it clear that wages of workers are only to be review upward and not downward; noting with dismay that even with the so called minimum wage being paid to workers, many are still collecting less than N20,000 and wondered how such workers will cope if it is review downward.
On what the labour will do if the governors go ahead to implement the review, Comrade Anya said workers would not fold their hands to watch them.
Anya, however, advised state governments across the country to shun the evil idea and think of how to improve their Internally Generated Revenue, (IGR) recover looted funds and diversify the economy by shifting their emphasis from oil to agriculture to improve their revenue base.
A senior civil servant in the state, Jacob Tyoember said that the call is unthinkable and irrational. He alluded that by the time the payment of minimum wage was implemented in the state, the exchange rate between the Naira and dollar was N146 and now it N232.
According to Tyoember, “If the governors have the interest of workers at heart, they should be thinking of increase not reduction of wages. If they are thinking of reduction, they should also be thinking of reducing their security votes and other emoluments.”
To Mr. Utta Ature, a worker in the state, any attempt by the government to stop payment of minimum wage would be meet with protests by workers. He reminded the governors of the labour law which say that salaries of workers can only be reviewed upward and wondered if the governors that supported such a decision are not aware that market prices were rising daily.
Workers Warn Governors Against Overheating The Polity
From Ann Godwin, Port Harcourt
Civil servants in Rivers State and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have urged the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to dialogue with Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its Trade Union Congress counterpart with a view to creating acceptable, win-win solutions to the current economic crisis rather than making vexatious pronouncements, capable of overheating the polity.
Speaking with The Guardian in Port Harcourt, a staff of Federal Road Safety Commission, who pleaded anonymity, said it was unconscionable for the governors to call for the reduction of salaries of civil servants considering the present economic situation in the country. She said: “Obviously, they are not being fair. What civil servants need at this tough economic period is increase in salary. The politicians are being heartless by thinking about a reduction, even when their personal assistants earn jumbo pay, in fact, it is disheartening to compare what we earn with what their PA’s earn”.
Another worker with the Rivers State Chapter of Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) who gave his name as Akpan Okon, lamented that the civil servants do most of the rigorous jobs, stressing that they come to work by 8am and stay till 4pm, while some politicians, their job is simply appending their signatures to documents.
He argued, “ This is complete wickedness because with the current economic crisis, even a man earning N18,000 cannot afford to pay house rent, feed the family and send the children to school”.
Similarly, Caleb Odoh who works at the Public Complaints Commission, Rivers State Office, said it was unfair receiving peanuts as salaries, despite working from morning till night.
While maintaining that the governors do not mean well for the citizens, he urged the governors to show example of what they are advocating, by reducing their earnings first.
Also speaking, a worker with the Federal Ministry of Information in the State warned that the workers would embark on an indefinite strike, if the government reduces their pay.
“If they try it, we will go on strike, we are expecting them to increase the minimum wage to at least N50,000 considering the situation of things now”
Continuing he said,” The situation on the country now is very bad. We are suffering so much, and thinking about reducing our salary is a deliberate punishment to civil servants”
In his reaction, the state Chairman of TUC, Chika Onuegbu blamed the current situation of the economy to poor governance and corruption of the political class.
He said: “For instance, the political leaders at all levels did not stop the industrial scale oil theft of some 400,000 barrels of oil per day; refused to diversify the economy; refused to pass the PIB; made no savings for the rainy day such that the excess crude account is just $2bn, external reserves is below $30bn and Nigerian govt debt is over $63bn”
“The situation becomes clearer when you juxtapose Nigeria with Saudi Arabia that has a smaller population but external reserves in excess of $900bln”.
He said: “We want to state categorically that this is not a time for any unilateral action by any level of government because such will be resisted by the workers and the unions that represent them including TUC Rivers State”.
Onuegbu stated further, “For the avoidance of doubt, workers will not accept any reduction in the meagre N18,000 minimum wage and any unilateral action by governors or any state government will be vehemently resisted”.
Kogi Labour leaders Ask Governors To Think Outside The Box
From John Akubo, Lokoja
Workers in Kogi are set for directives from the headquarters of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) on how to tackle the state governor over their recent push to reduce the N18000 minimum wage which the workers believe is less than what a minimum wage should be.
The workers said they could not fathom the rationale behind such a call when the same governors who muted the plan have not stopped living extra ordinary and flamboyant lifestyles, with over bloated retinue of aides and long convoys of entourage that have continued to tell negatively on the economy.
The state chairman of NLC, Comrade Onuh Edoka said workers under him would not take any decision that would be at variance with what the national body of NLC would do.
“Just like the National President has said, any attempt by the state governors to cut down on the N18, 000 minimum wage would lead to a total shutdown of the country. We don’t have a different view from that of the National President of the NLC.”
On the minimum wage, Edoka asked the governors to look for ways of cutting down on their reckless expenses rather than towing a myopic line of planning to cut down what is not even minimum.
He cautioned that the workers in Nigeria should not be used as sacrificial lambs for any economic downturn but rather those at the helm of affairs should prune down their retinue of idle aides to give room for development.
“For those who have been benefiting from the minimum wage I want to believe too well that any attempt to refuse to pay or cut down on the amount would be throwing workers into perpetual slavery because Nigerian workers have been bearing the brunt in terms of the inflationary trend.
The prices of commodities have gone out of the reach of the minimum wage earners, the fuel scarcity conundrum is another disturbing trend, and so thinking of cutting down the minimum wage would mean disaster.”
The NLC scribe said the minimum wage has not been good enough hence the plan of the NLC to look out for ways to raise the bar in terms of the minimum wage in this country.
“What has been delaying that plan was because the ministers were not sworn in on time. Any moment from now, we would present our new rate for minimum wage to the government because what an average Nigerian worker is earning at the moment is not even up to $3 per day.
“I know very well that what we are earning if divided by 30 days would amount to N600 per day and based on the fact that the current dollar rate is about N234.00 so what would N600 per day do as far as 3 square meals are concerned?”
He challenged the governor’s to begin to think out of the box on how to overcome the economic downturn and not to use the workers as sacrificial lambs. He added that the implication of the governors’ sinister plan against workers was like completely killing their morale for service delivery, adding that the output of service would decline steadily while workers would become beggars in their own land. Edoka said: “It is like bringing more impoverishment for already impoverished workers and many other things would surely follow”.
In the same vein the Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) Comrade Suleiman Abdullahi said the news of the outcry by the state governors’ inability to continue with the N18000 minimum wage came as a shock to all of them.
“We on our part as Nigerian Union of Teachers having been part of workers in this country see it as a matter of law. It has been part of law and what is lawful you cannot just wake up one morning and just wish it away.
“It is just that most of these state governors would not look inwards to ensure that they generate revenue internally to augment what they are getting from the federal government. For everything they need, they go to Abuja with cap in hand to collect allocation every month without thinking of what else they could do to generate income.”