Notwithstanding, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) were yet to make categorical statement on plans to protest the delay in the implementation of the payment of monthly N30, 000 which was agreed by wide-range of stakeholders as the new national minimum wage after four years of agitations and negotiations. However, there are strong indications the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC) in concert with labour unions in the public service are already contemplating industrial action over what has been described as “persistent effort to derail the implementation of the new national minimum wage”.
In a recent statement, JNPSNC disclosed it had commenced nationwide mobilisation of members for a showdown with the government over delay in implementation of the new national minimum wage. The statement signed by JNPSNC’s Acting Chairman, Anchaver Solomon and Secretary, Alade Lawal indicated that labour may embark on industrial action if contentious issues associated with consequential adjustments necessitated by the new national minimum wage of N30,000 per month remains unresolved and are allowed to delay the commencement of implementation.
JNPSNC alleged “government has been coming up with one strange proposal or the other, all with the intent of scuttling the implementation of the new national minimum wage” after setting up a committee to resolve the consequential adjustments that have become imperatives on account of the new national minimum wage. It has become a matter of utmost imperative for the committee charged with the responsibility of resolving issues arising from consequential adjustments in tandem with the new national minimum wage to deliver on its mandate without further delay.
There is no denying the fact that Nigerian workers have, over the decades, demonstrated resilience in the face of increasingly excruciating economic hardship made more manifest as a consequence of low wages believed to be below the global average.
Considering that Nigerian workers have stoically endured the inconveniences and hardship associated with low wages and in spite of the delay in statutory review of national minimum wage that was due since 2014, it would therefore amount to unduly pushing the tolerance of workers beyond the limit by further delaying implementation of N30,000 minimum wage which is even considered to be inadequate taken into account prevailing exchange rate differential. It has therefore become imperative for government to demonstrate sense of urgency in resolving outstanding issues associated with delay of commencement of implementation of the new minimum wage.
Allowing workers to embark on national strike at a critical time when the economy is struggling to sustain marginal recovery from recession would be counterproductive and further encroach on the confidence that is needed to stimulate foreign direct investment. While we passionately call on the leadership of labour unions to keep faith with the option of consultation and continuous engagement on the outstanding issues relating to the implementation of new national minimum wage.
The ensuing contestation over percentages of adjustment to be reflected in the wages for public officers across board and as maybe applicable to different grade levels; particularly those above grade level 7 appears to leave much to be desired in view of the fact that payment of minimum wage was taken into consideration before the passage of 2019 budget by the national assembly and consequent assent by Mr. President.
We therefore implore the federal government to mandate officials handling the readjustment of wages to, without further delay, engage with JNPSNC in open and dispassionate manner that will adequately take into account concerns and expectations of workers at the federal states levels. Indeed, it is rather disappointing that consequential adjustment salaries in line with the new national minimum wage could warrant delay in implementation three months after government at the federal and state levels agreed to payment of N30, 000 as minimum wage.
It must therefore be reiterated that the ongoing delay over consequential adjustment should not end up a deliberate ploy to again short-changed workers in the public service as was the case with the implementation of N18,000 minimum wage which led to most state government reneging on payment of consequential adjustment in wages to senior civil servants. On a final note, we caution against further delay in the implementation of payment of N30,000 minimum wage under whatever guise. We demand that Nigerian workers should not be subjected to further denial in view of the long awaited expectations by Nigerians.