Labour Gives States Jan 31 Deadline to Pay Minimum Wage

  •  Refuses to extend Dec 31 deadline for negotiations on consequential adjustments

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Ugo Aliogo and Peter Uzoho in Lagos

The Trade Union Congress of Nigerian (TUC) has given the 36 states a deadline to sign all the negotiation agreements and commence implementation of the N30, 000 national minimum wage latest by January 31, 2020.

This is coming as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has said that it would not extend the December 31, 2019 deadline given to the states to conclude negotiations on adjustments to minimum wage, insisting that it has set the machinery in motion to receive and analyse reports from each state on the progress made on the minimum wage negotiations.

The TUC has also threatened to ensure total shutdown of states that fail to act accordingly, saying government of such defiant states should be responsible for whatever that happens as a result non-compliance.

The position of the trade association was contained in a communiqué jointly signed by the President of TUC, Mr. Quadri Olaleye, and the Secretary, Mr. Musa Lawal, which emanated from its national executive council meeting held in Lagos on Wednesday and thursday.

According to the communiqué presented by Olaleye to journalists, “NEC in-session commends the federal government for the eventual completion of negotiation with respect to the consequential adjustments and commencement of payment of the new National Minimum Wage to federal workers.

“The congress, however, advises all state governments, who have not complied with the implementation and immediate payment of the N30, 000.00 new National Minimum Wage to commence negotiations and implementation on or before January 31, 2020, otherwise the state government should be responsible for the consequences of their failure.

“State Councils have been directed to commence mobilisation of their members immediately.”

Also fielding questions from journalists after thursday’s meeting, Olaleye added: “On the issue of minimum wage and the deadline that we have given, our state chapters will commence mobilisation immediately. If any state fails to sign agreement and commence implementation before January 31, 2020, first of all, it is an insubordination to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who has all the information on his table and gave an order that minimum wage must be paid before December 31.

“So, it is an insubordination for any state government to have not commenced that. So come January 31, 2020, any state, who fails to obey, the TUC will start mobilisation from now, and that there is going to be shutdown of any of the states as the case may be. So, there is no going back in that.

“State governments will be responsible for whatever happens as a result of not paying the minimum wage. So we encourage them, we are available to ensure that they sign and implement immediately.”

On the state of compliance so far, Olaleye, said six states have signed the agreement and implementation and have commenced payment immediately.
He added that 15 states are currently in the process of negotiation, noting that some of them shall be concluding their negotiation within the next 48 hours.

He said the rest of the states were yet to commence negotiations and implementation, pointing out that, “the governors are found wanting by not even co-opting the committee to negotiate this. So, either you are in the process or you have not commenced, the deadline is for everybody.”

While commenting on the increase of Value-Added Tax (VAT) from five per cent to 7.5 per cent and the negative impact it will have on workers, the TUC chief advised the federal government to consider the feelings of the workers when coming up with policies to raise revenue.

He said: “We are not against the federal government sourcing for income to run the deficit budget for 2020, but we also want to advise the government to consider the feelings of Nigerian workers, because the only hope that we have after the Almighty God is our income. And any attempt by the federal government to over-burden that income shall be resisted.”

On rising security challenge in the country, he said: “We want the federal government to be more practical and deploy more workable solutions. And I think some regions in the country are already taking steps that need federal government’s approval and maximum support

“Take for instance, the Operation Amotekun in the South-west, which has been launched today (yesterday). So, those are practical steps that federal government should take along in collaboration with the states.

“So, the federal government should welcome more of such development and also motivate the personnel involved in these security issues.”
The TUC also called for the review of Nigeria’s labour laws to suit the present day realities in the world of work, including the Work Men Compensation Act, saying the existing laws are obsolete.

It, however, warned against attempt from any quarter to remove labour issues from exclusive legislative list.
Meanwhile, NLC has said that it would not extend the December 31, 2019 deadline given to the states to conclude negotiations on adjustments to minimum wage.

The labour union insisted that it has set the machinery in motion to receive and analyse reports from each state on the progress made on the minimum wage negotiations.

Speaking in an interview with reporters in Abuja thursday, the NLC General Secretary, Mr. Emma Ugboaja, said there were three states where labour was having challenge in terms of kick-starting negotiations.

According to him, Kogi, Taraba and Cross River States had not set up a committee to negotiate with workers as at December 31 deadline.
‘We are taking reports from our various councils and we are analysing the reports because they vary; we are not going to have a uniform response to all states. We will take each state based on the kind of report we get from that particular state.

“Once we finish analysing the various scenarios we have, we will roll out actions on each state, according to the nature of discrepancy we are seeing in implementation.

“We have not extended the ultimatum and we are not doing that. The deadline is over but we are only being sure that we do not hurt a process that has already been concluded or being concluded. But we must fish out the exact places where we have clear challenge,” he said.
Ugboaja said that states like Abia and Rivers had to adjourn as at December 31 after reaching a conclusion.