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Pay minimum wage arrears from April to avoid fresh protest, Labour unions warn

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LABOUR unions in Nigeria have urged the Federal Government to ensure the new minimum wage’s implementation covers the period between April 18, when the law was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, till date, in order to avoid fresh confrontation.

This demand was made in a statement released to the press on Monday by the Trade Union Side of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC). It was signed by the acting chairman, Simon Anchaver, and secretary, Alade Lawal.

The group, which comprises eight public service trade unions present in all states including the Federal Capital Territory, commended workers for their patience, understanding, and for trusting the TUS leadership with the negotiation.

“We are also glad that government has taken note of the need for a general salary review in the Public Service,” it said. “We are looking forward to this review and we hope that the Federal Government will keep to its promise which was made during the negotiation of consequent adjustment.

“We also wish to advise that since the 2019 national minimum wage was signed into law by Mr. President on April 18 2019, the implementation should start from that date so as not to trigger off another avoidable round of agitation by Public Service employees and their trade unions.”

As President Buhari signed the Minimum Wage Repeal and Enactment Act in April, Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, had assured journalists that the law’s implementation was immediate. But this did not happen and trade union leaders accused the government of being unserious while also threatening to go on strike.

Finally, on Friday, the parties reached an agreement on the consequential adjustments to the new wage of N30,000 according to various grade levels.

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In its press statement on Monday, the TUS also praised the leadership of the Trade Union Congress and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) for contributing to the successful negotiation.

“The TUS equally hailed the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, for properly managing the trade dispute when the government side tried to derail the negotiation leading to marathon meetings in his office before an agreement could be reached,” it said.

“We are particularly glad that the Honourable Labour Minister has urged all employers covered by the 2019 national minimum wage Act to commence payment failing which the trade unions should declare trade disputes against such employers at the Ministry or drag them to the National Industrial Court.”

It commended acting Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Folashade Yemi-Esan, for promising that all necessary arrears will be paid, and all stakeholders for exerting “so much energy, dedication and intellect during the prolonged negotiation on consequential adjustment before reaching agreement acceptable to both parties”.

Following Friday’s agreement, Ayuba Wabba, President of the NLC, has also urged the government not to increase the personal income tax, electricity tariff, and price of petroleum products as this would only “amount to collecting with the left hand what is given to workers with the right hand”.

Meanwhile, an analysis of the National Bureau of Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures by The ICIR has shown that workers who earned N18,000 in 2015 and now earn N30,000 still aren’t better off due to inflation. This is because the average civil servant would have still lost 1 per cent of his purchasing power.

Put differently, “the new wage can only buy about the same amount of items which N18,000 could buy four years back … as a result of an increase in the prices of commodities as well as other economic activities”.

'Kunle works with The ICIR as an investigative reporter and fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via [email protected] or, if you're feeling particularly generous, follow him on Twitter @KunleBajo.

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