There are indications that the organised labour may meet with both the federal and state governments over plans to increase workers’ allowances in the New Year without a commensurate increment in salaries in the face of rising inflation and escalating costs of goods and services.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, had on Tuesday raised the hope of public and civil servants by saying the Presidential Committee on Salaries was carrying out a review of the existing salary structures and was expected to come up with salary adjustment early in 2023 to cushion the effects of the high inflation rate in the country.
Ngige had told State House correspondents after a visit to the President, Muhammadu Buhari, “Yes…the Presidential Committee on Salaries is working hand-in-hand with the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission. The commission is mandated by the Act establishing it to fix salaries, wages and emoluments in not only the public service.
“If you want their assistance and you are in the private sector, they will also assist you. They have what is called the template for remuneration and for compensation. So if you work, you get compensated; if you don’t work, you will not be compensated.
“So they have the matrix to do the evaluation; so they are working with the Presidential Committee on Salaries chaired by the finance minister and I’m the co-chair to look at the demands of the workers. Outside this, I said discussions on that evaluation are going.
“As we enter the New Year, the government will make some pronouncements in that direction.”
‘Only allowances’ll rise’
However, the minister recanted his earlier position on Saturday and denied saying that the Federal Government was reviewing the salaries of public and civil servants.
Ngige said the increase he alluded to was on the remunerations and emoluments of the affected workers, especially civil servants.
The minister’s denial was contained in a statement by the Head, Public Relations at the ministry, Mr Olajide Oshundun.
The statement read in part, “The attention of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has been drawn to the news item that the FG is reviewing salaries of public and civil servants, which was a fallout of his interaction with State House correspondents after his recent audience with Mr President.
“The minister wishes to clarify that the increase he talked about was on the remunerations and emoluments of the affected workers, especially the civil servants.”
The statement said the Presidential Committee on Salaries, through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, had received recommendations for the review of allowances of many Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government.
“Because salary component is not being reviewed for now by the committee, it addressed the allowances component of the requests, including the peculiar allowance for Federal Civil Servants, among others,” it added.
According to the ministry, in labour parlance, remuneration or emolument is made up of salary component and earned allowance component.
It added, “Therefore, the FG through the PCS could not have engaged in the review of salaries without involving the workers through their unions, represented by these two labour federation of workers in Nigeria – the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria – salary review or renegotiation is part of social dialogue and the product is usually a collective bargaining agreement usually agreed to by both parties – employers and employees.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the minister made it clear to the press corps that it was still work in progress and that the end-product of this review of allowances would be submitted to Mr President for consideration and final approval, and that this was one of the labour issues he briefed him (Buhari) on, that day. It’s hoped that this rightful step, which the FG embarked upon on compassionate grounds without any prodding or threat to strike, will help to cushion the debilitating effects of spiralling inflation, especially that which affects food and energy prices (electricity and petroleum products).
“The minister wishes to reassure that the committee is optimistic that Mr President will receive and consider the recommendations before the end of the first quarter in 2023.”
TUC, NULGE react
Reacting to Ngige’s latest position, the Trade Union Congress called on the Federal Government to review the high cost of living and constant devaluation of the naira, which it noted had prevented civil servants from getting full value for their salaries.
The Secretary General of the TUC, Nuhu Toro, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents on Saturday.
He insisted that the Federal Government must go beyond increasing allowances, noting that the current N30,000 minimum wage was grossly inadequate to meet workers’ needs.
Toro said Ngige’s position that only allowances would be reviewed was unacceptable to the congress.
According to him, the government must do more in taming inflation and the high cost of living in the country, noting that the indices must be checked to make life meaningful for workers and Nigerians.
He stated, “The government needs to go beyond any increase to have a holistic approach to the livelihood of Nigerian workers and their families. For us in the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, it goes beyond just increasing allowances or salaries; all those things I have mentioned before needed to be addressed.
“Regulation is the responsibility of the government and again, that is why Nigerian workers, as we approach the 2023 elections, need to shine their eyes and shine them very well. The TUC is resolved to defend the rights and privileges of the common man. Whether it is review of salaries or allowances, the government must do more in controlling inflation, devaluation and the cost of goods.”
On what the ideal minimum wage should be, Toro explained that the TUC would meet to take a decision on this, adding that the National Executive Committee of the congress would convene a meeting as soon as the government rolls out modalities on the increase.
The secretary general said, “We have various organs; we have the National Executive Council, so if the council decides to have a discussion around it, certainly, a meeting will be convened immediately.
“The National Executive Council will take whatever decision they arrive at to the Central Working Committee, which will present it to the National Executive Council, which comprises chairmen of the 36 states and the FCT of the TUC. We don’t want to be more Catholic than the pope, let them roll out the modalities first and of course that will spark the immediate convocation of the meeting.
‘’He (Ngige) has said it is the minimum wage they want to review and now he is speaking from both sides of the mouth that it is allowance. Tomorrow, you may hear another story. Let them state in clear terms what they want to do and I assure you that the TUC will constitute its organs to decide its next line of action.”
He added, “It does not make any sense for the government to just come and talk about increment in allowances. We are currently battling inflation in the country. The cost of living is too high for civil servants and there is a strong need to regulate the cost of goods and services.
“Civil servants have no true value for their salaries. Most of them cannot afford good and quality healthcare. There is a need first, for the regulation of the prices of goods and services, and that is the only way Nigerian workers can have value for the little wages they receive.
“Remember, the workers toiled and suffered to create the general wealth, so it is not normal that the worker that creates the wealth is hungry. Take for instance, the N30,000 minimum wage cannot do anything. As a worker living in Abuja, if you live in Marataba, transportation alone will take everything; N1,000 per day multiplied by 30 means that N30,000 is gone. What happens to his feeding, health and school fees of his children? Automatically, there is nothing left, which means that workers only work to earn transport fare. That is not fair. It is inhuman. The TUC will not sit down and fold its arms. We will speak out.
“No allowance is enough for civil servants. No amount will be commensurate with the high cost of living. Another index is the value. Our naira has lost its value. If you go to the market with the N30,000 minimum wage, you can only buy things in a polythene bag. That is sad and pathetic. The government has an enormous role to ensure that there is value for money to ensure that workers are paid well because the government has to control the cost of goods and services, inflation, high cost of living and the devaluation of the naira. All of these are the responsibilities of the government.”
Similarly, the President, Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, Akeem Ambali, told Sunday PUNCH that the government’s position had not been communicated to the organised labour as it could not unilaterally decide on the allowances to review.
Ambali stated, “By the principle of collective bargaining, it is a tripartite arrangement. So, whatever the government has clarified has not come to the table of labour and we have not negotiated it; no partner in collective bargaining reserves the right to just unilaterally announce any review of remuneration or salaries.
“We regard what the Federal Government has said as a rumour, because labour has not been invited to the table for negotiation. We await the Federal Government’s invitation to come and negotiate on this and our negotiation will be based on what is evident – the galloping inflation trend in Nigeria and any review that worth its onion will have to be on two legs.
“Firstly, we need to look at how to arrest the galloping inflation in Nigeria because any salary review with no price control mechanism will make a waste of whatever has been done. Fuel prices cannot continue to skyrocket daily and you say you are reviewing salaries.
“The consumption rate being charged on Nigerians in terms of electricity megawatts needs to be reviewed; the bank interest rate that is very exorbitant, especially when are now talking about e-banking that everybody has to do bank transactions, which has created room for fraud and fraudulent practices in the banking sector will need to be looked at.
“Also, the issue of minimum pension will need to be looked at and we have to look at social services too.
“Our second leg of negotiation is about remuneration too; what will be the increase in the purchasing power of Nigerian workers because as of today, Nigerian workers have been highly impoverished. What we are paid is a peanut and less than $2 per day.
“It is a rumour that we received, but we know that the due process has to be followed.”
Anambra NLC reacts
The Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Anambra State, Mrs Chinwe Orizu, said salary increment by the Federal Government was long overdue.
Orizu also called on the state government to not only raise workers’ allowances, but also the salaries.
She said, “The salary increment is long overdue and the Anambra State Government should key into the proposed salary/allowances’ increment by the Federal Government too because our salaries no longer take us home.
“A bag of rice is over N40,000 and the prices of commodities are hitting the rooftop and the average civil servant can’t afford basic commodities anymore.
“Although the state governor had promised to increase salaries by 10 per cent during the Public Servants’ Day recently, we urge him to do more and we want the implementation to start as early as January.”
The Press Secretary to the Governor, Christian Aburime, noted that his principal, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, was planning in that direction as he had already announced a 10 per cent pay rise for the state workers, which would be implemented soon.
“It is a welcome development. The governor was the first to announce a salary increment for civil servants during the Public Servants’ Day some days ago. He announced a 10 per cent increase for the workers,” he stated.
Adamawa workers hopeful
The Adamawa State chapter of the NLC, Emmanuel Fashe, said the announcement of increment in allowances of federal civil servants would serve as a succour for state workers whose take home pay was barely enough due to inflation.
Fashe, who spoke in a telephone interview on Saturday, noted that the news could not have come at a better time.
Ondo labour’s reaction
The Ondo State Chairman of the TUC, Mr Clement Fatuase, said instead of increasing salaries, the government should improve on infrastructural facilities that would generate employment for the youth.
He said, “The Federal Government says it will increase the allowances of workers, but it can’t impose it on the states. States will also want to sit down and look into how they will do their own; the local governments too are clamouring for autonomy. The states are not equal financially; even a local government in Lagos State is richer than some local governments in other states.
“I think the focus should be more on improving our infrastructural facilities; many companies have left Nigeria and the economy is not good; many are unemployed. Though workers’ salary review is long overdue, that should not be the top priority for the government now.”
The state Chairman of the NLC, Mr Sunday Oluwole-Adeleye, admitted that there was a need to demand the upward review of salaries.
To this end, the NLC chairman said the organised labour would certainly ask for an increase in the remuneration of workers in the state.
“Definitely we will demand to meet the reality of the inflationary trend. Don’t forget that the N30,000 minimum wage was based on N170 per litre of fuel. Now, petrol is sold for between N250 and N290 per litre,” he stated.
However, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Richard Olatunde, was not emphatic on whether the state government would increase workers’ salaries or not, but noted that the Rotimi Akeredolu administration had been doing well with workers in the state and would always put smile on their faces.
‘Address outstanding issues’
The organised labour in Ekiti State says its expectation from the state government is to address the outstanding issues bordering on workers’ welfare.
The state Chairman, TUC, Sola Adigun, said the issues included the non-implementation of the minimum wage for some workers.
He said, “The consequential adjustment of the N30,000 minimum wage has not been paid to some workers. We would like the government to look into that.
“Then, there are promotion letters that have not got financial backing. This should be looked into before we will be talking of the review of salaries or emoluments or whatever.”
Nasarawa TUC chair
The Nasarawa State Chairman of the TUC, Muhammad Doma, called on Governor Abdullahi Sule to do everything within his powers to increase the salaries and allowances of workers in the state.
Doma said the salaries being paid to workers in the state were no longer enough to settle their bills.
He said, “Currently, the N30,000 minimum wage being paid by the state government is only for workers on grade levels 1 to 6. So, what happens to the others on grade level 7 and above? The government should make more efforts to ensure that the welfare
of workers is looked into.’
However, the state government ruled out increment in salaries and allowances of workers for now due to non-availability of funds, but said if the increment becomes a national policy, it would key into it.
The Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Yakubu Lawal, told one of our correspondents in Lafia on Saturday.
He said, “The issue of increasing the salaries of workers has not yet arisen. For us in Nasarawa, our concern at the moment is to ensure that we are up to date with the payment of salaries to our workers.
“We don’t have enough money for a salary increase for now. And as you know, we are currently paying the minimum wage, so our workers are so far comfortable with the way things are going with payments.”
Gombe, Bayelsa positions
The Chairman of the NLC in Gombe State, Mohammed Adamu, said the government was not serious about the comment on increase in allowances.
“This is why I don’t want to comment because whether salary increase or allowance increase it is all a rumour,” he said.
In Bayelsa State, the organised labour said salary increase for workers by the government was long overdue, adding that the N30,000 minimum wage could no longer take any worker home.
The state Chairman of the TUC, Laye Julius, told one of our correspondents that labour was confident that the state government would also increase civil servants salaries once the Federal Government fulfilled its promise.
He said, “For us, it is the right thing (to increase allowances). It is long overdue and we will appreciate it if the Federal Government carries it out. And we are 100 per cent sure that the Bayelsa State Government under Governor Douye Diri, which has been worker-friendly, will also do it.”
The Chairman of the NLC in Osun State, Jacob Adekomi, said labour leaders in the state would wait for the outcome of negotiations between the national body and the Federal Government on the increment in workers’ allowances.
His counterpart in Sokoto State, Abubakar Tambuwal, called on government at all levels to follow the due process and guidelines before increasing workers’ salaries.
Tambuwal said already there had been a directive by the national headquarters of the union on some of the guidelines to be followed before salaries could be increased.
The Chairman, TUC in Kwara state, Tunde Joseph, said the review of allowances for workers proposed by the Federal Government was a welcome development.
Joseph, who said that the gains of the current minimum wage had been eroded as a result of inflation, stated that there was an urgent need for the government to increase the salaries of workers so that they could live a good life.
‘Carry states along’
The Gombe State Commissioner for Information and Culture, Lauco Meshack, has decried any form of arbitrary pay rise by the Federal Government at the expense of states, adding that states should be involved from the beginning.
“Sometimes the problem emanates when they propose a wage without carrying the states along. In discussing wage, they should carry states along so that once it is accepted, it will be accepted fully throughout the country and not to just negotiate with the Federal Government then the states that were left out will now be faced with labour unions; it doesn’t augur well. It is the state that will bear the heat of the workers’ anger; it is right to be involved from the beginning,” he said.
The Kogi State Commissioner for information, Kingsley Fanwo, said the state government would look at the Federal Government’s position and take a decision that would be in the best interest of the people in the state.
In Rivers State, the government and the organised labour expressed doubts if salaries of workers in the state could be raised.
Both the state government and labour said some states had yet to implement the N30,000 minimum wage over one year after it was approved by the Federal Government.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Chris Finebone, said the Federal Government was a different tier from the state, adding that the latter should be allowed to go at its pace.
‘Edo pays N40,000’
The Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, says the state government currently pays N40,000 as minimum wage.
He said, “The Edo State Government increased the minimum wage of workers from N30,000 to N40,000 in May. This was done as soon as the state government recognised the pressure of inflation on workers salaries and the high cost of living.
The Chairman of the NLC in Kwara State, Issa Ore, said that the congress would not ask the state government to increase the salaries of workers because the minimum wage was due for increment by March 2023.
The organised labour in Borno State called for a review of workers’ entire pay package to make it commensurate with the current economic realities.