Covid-19: Labour Unions Reject Deduction of Workers’ Salaries by Kaduna Govt

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By John Shiklam

The Join Unions of Tertiary Institutions of Kaduna State (JUTIKS) and the state chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) have rejected the 25 per cent deduction of workers’ salaries by the state government.

Governor Nasir el-Rufai had at the weekend announced the deduction of 25 per cent of salaries of civil servants, receiving above N67,000 to provide palliatives for vulnerable residents affected by the Covid-19 lockdown.

However, the labour unions who described the deduction as illegal, warned the state government to rescind the decision.

In its statement, JUTIKS maintained that labour unions in the state had offered five per cent of workers’ salaries as contribution for Covid-19, alleging that the government rejected and unilaterally imposed 25 per cent deductions.

JUTIKS statement jointly signed by its Chairman, Mr. Noah Danlami, and the Secretary, Mr. Jibril Makama, argued that providing palliatives to cushion the effect of Covid-19 lockdown on citizens is the sole responsibility of government, insisting that such responsibilities should not be shifted to workers already burdened with responsibilities.

The unions noted that while some states were considering upward review of workers’ salaries as palliatives against the hardship caused by the lockdown, the Kaduna State Government is imposing levy on workers.

The statement lamented that the state-owned tertiary institutions were still being paid 80 per cent of the obsolete CONTISS salary structure, as against the CONPCASS/CONTEDISS structure introduced 11 years ago.

JUTIKS said the state owned tertiary institutions’ workers are the least paid in the country, while still shouldering the responsibilities of not only their immediate and extended families but their neighbours as well.

“The government said that no public servant will have less than N50,000 monthly to manage in this emergency period. But this is not true as majority of workers are currently servicing different loans.

“The government is also aware that so many workers have acquired loans to purchase non-essential Government Houses.

“Such category of workers will be plunged into deep financial crisis as a result of the multiple deductions which is further complicated by the forceful deductions,” the statement said.

The unions appealed to the state government to immediately stop further implementation of the illegal levy, stressing that the financial burden on members was already unbearable to accommodate 25 per cent salary deduction.

JUTIKS advised the state government to explore other sources of funding instead of extracting from the meagre salaries of helpless civil servants of the state.

The statement said rather than deducting workers’ salaries, the government should re-channel the funds being expended on the ongoing roads project to fighting Covid-19.

On its part, the NLC called on el-Rufai to return the deducted fund or face industrial action.

The state Chairman of NLC, Ayuba Suleiman, in a statement, said government must stop the 25 per cent deduction and make a refund to the affected workers.

He said the deductions ought to have been done with the consent of the labour union and should have been voluntary rather than forceful deduction.

“Sequel to the deductions of 25 per cent on the salary of all civil servants in Kaduna State effective from April 2020, labour in Kaduna State unequivocally rejects this deduction. This is because the union was not consulted on the issue nor consented to the deduction.

“Article 8 of the International Labour Organization Protection of Wages Convention, 1949 (No.95) provides that deduction from wages shall be permitted only under conditions and to the extent prescribed by the National Laws or regulations or fixed by collective agreement or arbitration award.

“Section 5(1) of the Labour Act Cap 1.1 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 provides thus: ‘Except where it is expressly permitted by this act or any agreement or contract with a worker for any deductions or wages to be paid by the employer to the worker or any payment to the employer by the worker for or in respect of any fines provided that with the prior consent in writing of an authorized labour officer a reasonable deduction may be made in respect of injury or loss caused to the employer by the willful misconduct or neglect of the worker’,” he said.

According to him, “As responsible working groups who are conscious of the predicament of the average citizens of Kaduna State, we are disposed to committing much higher for the wellbeing of the less privilege if the need be and proper process is followed.

“In view of the above, Labour in Kaduna State calls on the Kaduna State government to stop the 25 per cent deduction henceforth and should return the salary already deducted from the workers.

“Failure to comply with the above will leave the labour in the state with no option than to explore other possible avenues within the purview of the law.”