MINIMUM WAGE: STATES DIFFER OVER FG-LABOUR AGREEMENT

Filed in News by on August 8, 2011

Minimum wage: States differ over FG-Labour agreement
By Niyi Odebode, Jude Owuamanam,
Monday, 8 Aug 2011

The controversy that trailed the full implementation of the Minimum Wage Act 2011 may resurrect soon.

Many states across the federation have been reacting differently to the agreement to accommodate all categories of workers in the new wage regime which was expected to have taken effect from August 1.

Already, Anambra State has complained of difficulties in meeting up with the payment because of its lean purse.

Also, THE PUNCH has learnt that the governors of the five South-East states – Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Abia and Ebonyi – have resolved to take a collective position on how to pay the new wage.

The Commissioner for Information in Anambra State, Chief Maja Umeh, confirmed this to one of our correspondents on Sunday.

“Whatever is settled for by the South East Governors’ Forum is what we will adopt,” Umeh explained.

Talks between the Anambra State government and the organised labour was said to have failed to yield any agreement in Awka, the state capital, on Thursday as the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and the Joint Negotiating Council rejected government’s proposal.

Governors, under the aegis of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, had kicked against paying all cadres of workers under the new N18,000 new minimum wage regime, pleading inadequate resources but they nevertheless keyed into the Federal Government-labour agreement reached recently.

Anambra State, on Friday, insisted on paying only workers on grades 1 to 6 and remained undecided on what to do with those from level 7 to 17.

Chairman of the Anambra State Council of the NLC, Mr. Patrick Obianyo, told our correspondent in Awka that labour had decided to call a rally at the Alex Ekwueme Square on Monday (today) to address the workers in the state on what the government had offered.

Obianyo said the outcome of the Monday rally and meeting would form the position of the NLC on the minimum wage saga.

He said with an average monthly allocation of N2bn from the federation account, the state government might not have enough money to pay the new wage.

He said if the minimum wage would be paid across board, the wage bill would become N3.6bn instead of the current monthly bill of N1.3bn.

In Kano State, the government said it would pay, though the Head of Service in the state, Alhaji ShehuMinijibir, noted that the number of civil servants in the state was not yet known.

Also, in Enugu State, Plateau and Ekiti states no agreements had been reached with workers on the minimum wage; though Ogun, Rivers, and Kano governments have expressed their readiness to begin implementation.

Investigations by our correspondent in Jos, the Plateau State capital, showed that the meeting between labour and the state government last Friday was deadlocked.

Our correspondent gathered that the government team, led by the former Special Adviser on Labour, Mr. Samuel Katuri, came into the meeting with no clear mandate from Governor Jonah Jang.

The government had set up a committee led by Karuri. It is made up of four members each from the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress and two from the Joint Negotiating Council.

NLC Secretary in Plateau state, Mr. Daniel Reuben, told our correspondent in Jos on Sunday that the government team did not present any alternative at the meeting.

The Enugu State government said it was not sure when it would begin the implementation of the minimum wage. However, it stated that it had set up a committee on the minimum wage.

The Chief Press Secretary to Enugu State Government, Mr. Chukwudi Achife, said, “No reaction is available for now. The state government will make its position on the new development known when it is ready.”

In Ekiti State, the Commissioner for Information in Ekiti State, Mr. Funminiyi Afuye, said that the state government was not aware of the details of the agreement reached between the labour unions and the Federal Government.

“We don’t know the detail of the agreement signed by the labour and the Federal Government. When we have it we will talk to you,” he said.

The Rivers State Government expressed its commitment towards paying its workers salaries based on the new minimum wage.

The State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibis Semenitari, told THE PUNCH that Rivers was already paying its workers N17,000 as minimum wage, adding that the issue of paying N18, 000 as minimum wage had already been addressed.

The Ogun State Government last Thursday approved N18, 250 as the minimum wage in the state. According to a statement by the state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, the state government has signed an agreement with representatives of the NLC, TUC and the Joint Negotiating Council on the new wage regime.

He explained that the implementation of the new minimum wage would commence from August 1, 2011.

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