The lingering wage issue between the members of the organised labour and the Nigerian government is far from over. Despite the fact that the labour movement have made some form of breakthrough with the executive through the tripartite committee, with just the National Assembly left to placate regarding the implementation of a new wage structure, all indications points to a speedy passage of the new wage bill by the legislature.
With that in mind, it all seem set for the implementation of a new wage structure across the country, including the private sector. But in Nigeria, nothing is so straightforward particularly if it involves the tiers of government.
And so it was that a generally accepted minimum wage is still sometime from realisation as the governors have stated their objection to the N30000 demanded by the organised labour. Indeed, some of them have gone as far as to go on record to state that their state will not be able to pay the new wages.
What many of them agree that the current N18000 paid to workers is not true to the reality of what is on ground in the country at the moment, however, they stressed that while a wage increase is paramount and reasonable, labour’s demands is not in conformity with what their states earn and it would be difficult to meet the new wage demands and still carry out other demands of governance.
Many of them proposed figures that are not in conformity with what the organised labour wanted and they were roundly rejected. On his part, President Buhari did try to see reason with the governors he also encouraged them to find a way to work with labour to avoid an impasse that could lead to industrial action. The president’s effort look unlikely to resolve the issue and a showdown between the governors and labour seem inevitable.
Though some states have indicated interest in paying the N30000 minimum wage, the income of states and the of workers in various state differ, some of these states have even gone as far as including it in their 2019 budget, the vast majority are against labour demand and 2019 will likely be the year labour will enter into a showdown with many state governors.
Some of the governors also took exception to the fact that the Federal Government entered into negotiations with labour without impute from them or their representative, to mitigate this, some of them have agreed to enter into separate negotiation with the labour movement on ways to better reach common ground.
A few of them point to the fact that they currently find it difficult to pay the current wages with many of them owing several months of salaries and with no means of paying the arrears in sight, they believe that N30000 will be impossible unless they get some form of assistance from the Federal government.
One governor in particular has stated that the organised labour cannot dictate wages to states, he particularly took exception with the attempt by labour to create an equal wage umbrella across the states and the Federal government. The Governor who happen to be Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state insist that labour’s approach is against the principle of Federalism.
“The purpose of government is beyond paying salaries of a few; the purpose of government must be to invest in the future. “Some of governors live large and give the impression that we have enough resources but we do not. “Why are you raising the minimum wage when your sustainable revenues on a monthly basis cannot cover your salaries and overheads?
“You cannot impose on a state government a wage level that exceeds its sustainable revenues. “There is a need to look at the minimum wage, but if you look at the minimum wage, you must also look at the capacity to pay.
El-Rufai’s positions echo that of many governors who claim their state have little or no capacity to pay the new wages, however, there have been calls by some to look at increase the percentage of payment according to the category of the an individual in the civil service. They argue that while N30000 could be the least they pay a worker, the increase could be reviewed downward according to the rank of the individual.
This proposal seem to have the support of many of the governors, there are indications that some in the organised labour will not agree to the proposal and it could be a particular stinging point when negotiating with the governors individually.
It is also believed that members of the organised labour are not very keen on negotiating with each state government individually and they will call for an umbrella wage limit which will undoubtedly lead to some form of dispute between the both parties.
From all indication, the minimum wage struggle is far from finished, even if the National Assembly pass the bill, there is bound to be conflict among the interested parties and some form of strike action is bound to take place.
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