Wage Adjustment Deadline: Osun, Seven Others Fail to Institute Negotiations

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•20 states yet to conclude discussions

Our Correspondents

Less than a week to the December 31 deadline given by organised labour for governors of the 36 states of the federation to conclude negotiations on consequential adjustments to minimum wage with state chapters of the labour unions, at least eight states are yet to raise their teams to hold talks with labour, THISDAY investigations have revealed.

Besides, six others that had set up teams, were as at the weekend, yet to begin talks with the organised labour while 20 others were yet to conclude negotiations.

THISDAY gathered at the weekend that while Taraba, Bauchi, Gombe, Zamfara, Plateau, Anambra, Osun and Nasarawa States were yet to set up negotiating teams to engage the labour unions, Sokoto, Ekiti and Kwara States had set up committees to negotiate with the unions but talks had not commenced.

However, Ogun, Osun, Enugu, Adamawa, Kano, Abia and Oyo States were optimistic that they would beat the deadline and avert potential industrial unrest.

But the recent kidnapping of the Cross River State Chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has stalled negotiations between the labour unions in the state and the state government.

However, despite the non-constitution of a negotiating team by the Osun State Government, the Chairman of the NLC in the state, Jacob Adekomi, said the December 31 deadline would be met.

He said the union was working seriously on the matter and expressed optimism that the state government would set up a team within the shortest period to start the negotiations before the deadline
In Plateau State, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Dan Majang, said the committee set up by the state government to ascertain the number of workers in the state must conclude its assignment before the issue of minimum wage could be discussed.

He, however, reassured the labour that that the state would pay the new minimum wage.
“Even if the December 31 deadline is not met, the state has agreed to pay all arrears. But we must ascertain the correct number of civil servants, and that’s why we embarked on the screening,” he said.
In Anambra State, the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C Don Adinuba, told THISDAY that the state Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, was ready to pay the new minimum wage and that the payment was captured in 2020 budget.

He, however, added that the state government was still awaiting the NLC for discussions, saying that it is not a decision that could be taken and imposed on the workers.
According to him, the state government will be willing to sit and discuss with the leadership of organised labour.

Following the non-constitution of the committee in Taraba State, the labour will today (Monday) to issue an ultimatum to the state government to commence negotiations over the new minimum wage.

The Chairman of NLC in the state, Peter Gambo, told THISDAY in a telephone interview that the NLC had written a letter to the state government to request the setting up of the negotiating committee.

He said if the government failed put in place the committee by today (Monday), the NLC would be left with no other alternative than to give the government ultimatum to compel the government to set up the committee.

“We are very hopeful that the committee would be put in place by Monday. But if it is not put in place by Monday, we will be left with no other alternative than to issue an ultimatum,” he added.

The Bauchi State chapter of the NLC also told THISDAY that it was still waiting for the state government to establish a negotiation committee on the new minimum wage.

The NLC Chairman in the state, Danjuma Sale, in a telephone interview with THISDAY, said the state governor was yet to constitute a negotiation team.
“We are meeting with government officials now (Saturday evening) and I don’t want to pre-empt the outcome of the meeting”.

The Gombe State Government was also yet to constitute a committee on the new minimum wage, eight days to December 31 deadline.
The state Chairman of NLC, Shuaibu Ciroma, told THISDAY that the state government had been foot-dragging on negotiations “and after we have exhausted the laid-down procedures, we are resorting to strike.”

However, the spokesman of the governor, Alhaji Ismaila Uba Misilli, simply told THISDAY that the state government “is standing on the resolution reached by the governors’ forum on the matter.”

Nasarawa State was also yet to start negotiations with labour on the new minimum wage consequential adjustments.

However, Governor Abdullahi Sule recently set up a team to start the negotiations.
The state chairman of the NLC, Yusuf Iya, had said the state government had officially written to the union requesting for its representatives on the committee.

“The government informed us that their representatives on the negotiations committee were already set up and want our own representatives in order to kick start negotiation of the new wage,” he said.

However, unlike Taraba, Osun and others, negotiations had reached various stages in other states.
THISDAY gathered that it was only last Thursday that the Sokoto State Government set up the implementation committee to discuss with the labour unions on the consequential adjustment on minimum wage.

According to the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Sai’du Umar, the membership of the committee, which is drawn from government officials, civil servants and labour, is to be headed by Alhaji Muhammad Namadina Abdulrahman.

He added that part of the committee’s terms of reference is to work out modalities for the consequential adjustment of new minimum wage and its implementation.

Chairman of NLC, Sokoto State chapter, Aminu Umar Ahmad, confirmed the constitution of the committee, saying before the coming weekend, the contentious issues would be sorted out.

In Zamfara State, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Governor Bello Mutawalle, Mr. Zilani Baffa, told THISDAY he was not aware if any committee had been set up but promised to get clearance from the commissioner in charge.

On his part, the chairman of NLC in the state, Bashir Mafara, also promised to get back to THISDAY on the issue.

In Ekiti State, the government has just approved the composition of a negotiation committee for the implementation of the new minimum wage.

The Governor of the state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, had also promised to comply with resolutions reached by the committee on the proposed payment.

The Senior Special Assistant on Labour Matters, Oluyemi Esan, said Fayemi had directed the committee to commence negotiation with immediate effect.

When contacted by THISDAY, the Chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Sola Adigun, thanked Fayemi for approving the constitution of the committee.

“The committee has been set up and it will hold its inaugural sitting December 23 (today).
“We believe all the issues surrounding the minimum wage will be addressed and implementation will follow in the interest of peace,” he added.

The Kwara State Government has also set up a negotiating team to interface with representatives of the labour unions but actual talks had not commenced.

The setting up of the committee, according to THISDAY’s investigation, was to avert the recent threat by the labour in the state to embark on an industrial action over the new minimum wage .

The unions in a communiqué jointly signed by the state Chairman of NLC, Issa Ore and the Chairman of TUC, Kolawole Olumoh, at the weekend, said it would not guarantee industrial peace in the state should the state government failed to implement the new minimum wage by December 31.

The communiqué read by the Deputy Chairman of NLC, Muritala Olayinka, said though some states had concluded negotiation and commenced payment, Kwara was among the states that were yet to start negotiation.

To avert the crisis, the state government in a statement in Ilorin at the weekend, stated that “the team is peopled by government officials and leadership of the labour unions in the state”.

Also following the threat of strike by the labour unions in Ogun State, the state government at the weekend began negotiations with leaders of the NLC and the TUC on the consequential salary adjustment for the new minimum wage.

Late last month, however, the organised labour in the state had threatened to proceed on strike this month if the state government failed to negotiate with them.

NLC and TUC had jointly lamented that their requests to meet Governor Dapo Abiodun over the issue were ignored.

But at the weekend, Abiodun finally buckled to the demand of the workers, as the state government took the aggrieved labour leaders to the negotiation table.

Confirming this development to THISDAY , the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Kunle Somorin, said: “We started negotiating yesterday; it’s the reason the NLC called off their strike.
“We are on the same welfarist page with our people.”

In Enugu State, the state government has said it is working hard to meet the December 31 deadline.
The state Commissioner for Information, Chidi Aroh, told THISDAY that the state government had in line with the directive of the NLC, set up a committee that has been working hard on the adjustment.

“There is nothing we can say has happened until we have a final report from them. The committee has the organised labour and the state government and they are discussing,” he stated.

According to him, the increment in the 2020 budget proposal of the state from N109 billion to N169.5 billion is to accommodate necessary agreement for consequential adjustment.

“We cannot pre-empt what the outcome of the conversation will be. But from all the report we get, the conversations are going on positively,” he said.

He added that the state government and the organised labour have enjoyed a fruitful relationship over the years.

On his part, the state Chairman of the NLC, Virginus Nwobodo, said negotiations were on top gear, adding that the organised labour was optimistic on a positive conclusion at the end of the deliberation.

“The committee has been set up already and we have begun negotiations,” he added.
In Adamawa State, the Chairman of NLC Emmanuel Fashe, said negotiations on the minimum wage consequential adjustments of workers were in top gear between the NLC and state government.

He said NLC and the state government had set up technical committees, which commenced negotiations a week ago .

In Kano State, negotiations have been concluded and the Chairman of NLC, Mr. Kabiru Ado Minjibir, has assured workers that the state government is ready to pay the new minimum wage.

“The negotiation has been concluded with a view to have the kick-starting month of the payment, which is possibly by the end of this December or immediately by January 2020,” he added.

The Oyo State Government has also set up a committee to negotiate with labour on the new minimum wage.
The state Chairman of NLC, Bayo Titilola-Sodo, said labour in the state was bound by the deadline, adding that there is no cause for alarm.

He expressed optimism that the committee would finish its work before the deadline, saying “there is no need to worry about the deadline and in case it is not met when we get to the bridge, we would cross it.”

But while speaking with THISDAY, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, said it was left for the NLC to determine whether the December 31 deadline would be sacrosanct or not, stating that the state government cannot do anything on the new minimum wage until the committee submits its report.

The Abia State Chairman of NLC, Uchenna Obigwe, also told THISDAY that the negotiating teams in the state were making progress.

He said the joint committee had held meetings on three occasions and had set up technical committees (subcommittees) to look into specific areas of the minimum wage.

According to him, the technical committees are expected to submit their reports on Fridayafter which the whole house would deliberate on each of the reports and prepare a final report to be submitted to the state government.

Kidnap of Cross River NLC Chairman Stalls Talks with Labour

In Cross River State, the NLC in the state has suspended all forms of negotiations with the state government on the implementation of the new minimum wage consequential adjustments following the kidnapping of the council’s Chairman, Mr. Ben Ukpepi.

The NLC chairman was kidnaped by some gunmen last Tuesday at his residence in Akpabuyo Local Government Area, close to Calabar, the state capital.

Following the abduction of the workers’ leader, the leadership of the NLC in the state has shifted their entire attention towards ensuring the release of the chairman from captivity.

The state Vice Chairman of NLC, Lawrence Achuta, who commented on the development, threatened that the workers would declare an industrial action against the state government for allegedly not showing any concern over the abduction of Ukpepi.