Following the warning by the Nigeria Labour Congress that it may not be able to guarantee industrial peace and harmony if governors refuse to conclude negotiations and payment of the National Minimum Wage by December 31, some states that have yet to begin the implementation have commenced negotiations with the labour unions in their states.
According to findings by our correspondents, there are different stages of negotiations in the states that have yet to comply with the new minimum wage, which was signed into law on April 18, 2019 by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
In Plateau State, for example, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr Dan Manjang, told one of our correspondents in an interview on Friday that negotiations with labour unions in the state were still ongoing and that government was aware of the December 31 deadline given by the labour union.
He said government had already set up a committee for that purpose, adding that Governor Simon Lalong was committed to the welfare of workers in the state, even though he did not disclose the exact date the state would commence the payment of the new minimum wage.
Investigations by our correspondent, however, revealed that no formal meeting had taken place between government’s negotiating team and the representatives of labour to discuss modalities for the implementation.
He added, “What I can tell you is that deadline or no deadline, we will pay the new minimum wage to our workers. The governor was among members of the technical committee that arrived at the 30, 000 minimum wage, so there is no way he will turn round to say that he will not pay the workers in his home state.”
In Ekiti State, the Secretary, Ekiti State Joint Public Service Negotiating Council, Gbenga Olowoyo, said on Friday that the council that would negotiate the payment of the new minimum wage in the state had been constituted but that it was expecting government’s committee to call for inaugural meeting so that the negotiations could begin.
Olowoyo said, “We have no doubt about meeting the December 31 deadline and consequent payment of the minimum wage by the state government. Labour in the state had a roundtable with Governor Kayode Fayemi on Tuesday and he reassured us that negotiations would soon begin and that he would implement the resolution at the joint negotiation.”
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Muyiwa Olumilua, said, “They (the committee) had been doing underground work and that negotiations would soon commence.”
In Delta State Governor, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Mr Olisa Ifejika, said the committee set up by the governor had been meeting to agree on the template for the implementation of the new minimum wage.
He said, “The labour in Delta does not have problem because Governor Okowa had said the state was ready to implement whatever template the Federal Government approved. The committee chaired by the Secretary to the State Government, Chiedu Ebie, has been meeting and will also meet on Monday to look at the modalities of payment.”
In Enugu State, findings showed that government had constituted a five-member negotiation committee, headed by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof Simon Ortuanya, that would confer with labour on the issue.
The Chairman of the Trade Union Congress in the state, Mr Chukwuma Igbokwe, who confirmed the development to Sunday PUNCH, said the committee met on Monday and setup a technical committee to work out the financial implications of the new law.
Igbokwe said, “When we have worked it out at the technical committee, we will revert to the main committee to start negotiating the consequential adjustment and if there would be need for adjustment.”
He explained that the committee also discussed the sustenance of the payment of 13th month to workers.
In Abia State, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has tasked the Joint Negotiation Committee to work out modalities that would make it seamless for the government to implement the payment of the new minimum wage to workers. He assured the workers that his government was committed to paying the new minimum wage.
While inaugurating the 16-man committee, which has the state Head of Service, Onyi Wamah, as chairman on Friday, the governor, represented by his deputy, Ude Oko Chukwu, also charged them to recommend ways of stopping ghost workers and padding of salaries in the state, saying such practices were responsible for the heavy wage bill in the state.
He mandated them to expedite action and submit their report on or before December 31, 2019.
Meanwhile, in Rivers State, it is not yet clear when the committee on the minimum wage implementation will be set up.
The state NLC chairperson, Mrs Beatrice Utubo, told Sunday PUNCH that a letter had already been sent to Governor Nyesom Wike on the need to set up the negotiation committee on minimum wage.
She said, “‘We have sent a letter to the governor. They have called us to ask us who would constitute the committee and which we have told them. Then we (Rivers State NLC) left for Abuja for a meeting on the minimum wage. I will see the Secretary to the State Government on the issue on Monday.”
The state Head of Service, Mr Rufus Godwin, said he would speak to one of our correspondents on the matter on Monday.
Also, in Imo State, the state Commissioner for Information, Felix Ebilikwe, said on Friday that government would soon announce the minimum wage negotiation committee, noting that the committee would meet up with the December 31 deadline given by labour.
“The governor is labour friendly and Imo State under Governor Emeka Ihedioha will keep civil servants happy,” he added.
In Osun State, the state government kept mum over the issue, even as the organised labour in the state said it had written to the governor, asking him to constitute the team that would discuss the new minimum wage.
The NLC Secretary in the state, Rufus Adeyemi, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH, however said labour was still expecting his reply to the letter.”
In Benue State, an aide to Governor Samuel Ortom, Chief Ode Enyi, on Friday said that the governor would soon set up a committee to meet with labour over the new minimum wage.
When informed of the deadline given by the organised labour, Enyi said, “The labour leaders in the state know that the governor is a lover of workers and will go the extra mile to ensure that workers in the state enjoy.”
Asked if government had received correspondence from the national secretariat of the organised labour, the governor’s aide said no letter had been received.
In Ogun State, the state government said it would soon set up negotiation committee to enhance the payment of the national minimum wage.
The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Dapo Abiodun, Kunle Somorin, said, “The organised labour unions have been meeting with our workers-friendly government on the minimum wage issue and an agreement will soon be reached.”
The state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress had few weeks ago threatened a showdown with the government over the minimum wage, saying it had written series of letters to the government but were all ignored.