There are strong indications that the state chapters of the Nigeria Labour Congress will as from May 1 begin talks with their state governments on the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage recently approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Investigations revealed that while some state chapters of the NLC would begin meeting with the state governments on May 1 (May Day), others insisted that they would wait for a circular from the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission before they could start negotiation.
The unionists said that they would not tolerate any reduction in the N30,000 minimum wage by any state government.
For instance, the Ekiti State Chairman of the NLC, Olatunde Kolapo, said labour would meet with the state government on May 1.
Kolapo, who was inaugurated as the NLC state chairman on Thursday, said, “We just came on board. The meeting with the state government will take place this week. Wednesday is Workers’ Day. That is still an avenue. All we need to know is when to expect it.
“There is no negotiation again because it has been signed into law. So, as a law, it is binding on all state governments to implement it. There is no going back on it. Workers in Ekiti State are looking forward to it.”
On what would happen if the state government came up with excuses, the labour leader said, “I don’t think the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, will have any different view because his Chief of Staff, Mr Biodun Omoleye, who represented him at our delegates’ conference on Thursday, spoke the mind of the government on the readiness to pay.
“I want to believe there is no cause for alarm. Labour will not take anything short of the N30,000 minimum wage in Ekiti,” Kolapo said.
However, his Osun State counterpart, Jacob Adekomi, said the chapter had received the communication last week from the NLC national headquarters to begin negotiation.
He said the state NLC had urged the state government to immediately set up a committee that would negotiate the new minimum wage with the labour movement.
Adekomi said the leadership of the NLC in the state would formally write to the state government this week to request the setting up of the committee that would negotiate with workers on the new wage.
“It is a law. New minimum wage is a law that must be respected. We believe the government will do the needful. We will write to the state government this week to request the committee that will negotiate with us,” Adekomi said.
Also, the newly-elected Chairman of the Cross River State chapter of the NLC, Benedict Ukpepi, said the union planned to meet with the state government on the implementation of the new minimum wage soon. According to him, minimum wage issue would be his first assignment in office.
“The election was held on Thursday and I travelled immediately after I was elected to Obudu. A meeting with the government on the implementation of the new minimum wage will be my first assignment. When I get back to Calabar, we will write to the government to seek audience to deliberate on the issue,” Ukpepi said.
But the Chairman of the Enugu State NLC, Virginus Nwobodo, affirmed that the delay in setting up a committee to engage with the government was as a result of the union delegates’ conference which was held last Thursday.
Nwobodo said the congress would meet on Thursday to deliberate on the directive of the national secretariat to marshal out plans on the possible way to engage with the government.
However, the Akwa Ibom State Government said it had concluded plans to set up a committee on the new minimum wage.
Governor Udom Emmanuel had, in his meeting with the NLC executive last year, assured the over 50,000 workforce that the state would fully implement the payment of the N30,000 minimum wage.
The state Head of Service, Mrs Ekereobong Akpan, who said this at the eight quadrennial delegates’ conference last Friday, said the minimum wage committee would soon be constituted.
She said, “The state government will soon constitute a committee on the new minimum wage in the state.”
But the Delta State chairman of the NLC, Mr Goodluck Ofobruku, said the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa administration had agreed to implement the new minimum wage.
A top NLC member in Katsina State, who was the union chairman until last week, Tanimu Saulawa, said that a circular was still being awaited from the national wages commission.
He said, “Governor Aminu Masari has demonstrated that he is a friend of workers. I am optimistic that the state will pay the minimum wage and we workers are also ready to contribute our quota to the development of the state.”
But the Ogun State chapter of the NLC said that it was wary of entering into any negotiation on the N30,000 minimum wage with the outgoing government of Governor Ibikunle Amosun because of fear of unfulfilled promises.
The new state Chairman of the NLC, Bankole Emmanuel, stated this while addressing the press on the new minimum wage.
Emmanuel said the union had not received any invitation for negotiation from the state government since Buhari signed the minimum wage bill into law.
When asked if the union had contacted the state government over the new minimum wage, the NLC chairman said the congress was expecting an invitation from the government.
Bankole said, “We haven’t started any negotiation with the government. You know the government is on its way out. We are wary of flimsy and untenable promises that will not be fulfilled but so far we have not been invited for such a meeting.
“The NLC chairman, however, said the union would honour the invitation by the government if it was invited.
He said, “In any case, if we have any invitation, we are ready. But, so far, there is no such invitation.
“We are talking about how many weeks now? Notwithstanding, if there is such an invitation, we are ready for negotiation. Ordinarily, looking at the antecedents of this government, one will not be anxious to do business with it because of so many unfulfilled promises.”
But when contacted, the state government challenged the NLC to mention promises it made which
Also, the state Chairman of the NLC in Edo State, Mr Sunday Osayande, said, “We want to play safe in Edo and the governor has promised that he will implement the minimum wage. So, we don’t want anybody to coerce us into negotiations. We don’t want to negotiate in a vacuum. We want to get the federal chart so that we would not be short-changed.”
Also, the Ondo State chairman of the NLC, Mr Sunday Adeleye, said, “We believe our governor is not only a barrister, he is also a senior advocate. He is a law-abiding person. He would not do less. Immediately we get the template from the commission, we will start the negotiation.”
The newly-elected Chairman of the NLC in Kaduna State, Mr Ayuba Magaji-Suleiman, said immediately the union received the new minimum wage circular from the national wages commission, it would write to the state government to fix the date for negotiation.
He said, “We are waiting for a circular from the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission to release the table that will include the spread of all the grade levels.
“It is through that table that we will start (negotiation), but I don’t even think we need any negotiation. This is a law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is not an issue of negotiation. What are you negotiating?
“Once we get the circular, we will write to the state government for implementation. That’s all. It is when they need something or say something that they will invite us for negotiation.”
But the National Secretary of the NLC, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, said there was no information on a circular from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation on the new minimum wage.
“Once there is a minimum wage of N30,000, it will have implication on the salary table. Since each state has its own salary table, the state councils (of the NLC) will negotiate with their governments on the new minimum wage. None has taken place, but going forward, we expect that to take place quickly even at the federal level. We have nothing new about that today,” he said.