As We Await Minimum Wage

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The spirit of benevolence and collectiveness of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was exhibited last year as he announced a new salary structure for civil servants across the country. Indeed, the new salary package was expected to take effect from last year July.

The approval of the new salary structure for workers, President Jonathan said, was in fulfillment of an earlier promise he made during the Workers’ Day celebration on May 1, 2010. His words: We support the right of every worker to earn a living wage for addressing basic necessities of life”

To demonstrate the seriousness of the Jonathan administration to review upward the salary of workers, the Alfa Belgore Committee on amendment of the new national minimum wage, last year July in Abuja, presented to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), at the time, a new minimum wage of N18,000 per month, as against the present N7,500.

As it were, the committee proposed that anyone who fails to comply with the new National Minimum Wage Act, when passed by the National Assembly, was likely to pay a fine not exceeding N50,000 and in the case of continuing offence, to pay a fine not exceeding N100,000 for each day the offence continues.

Exempted from the payment of the proposed national minimum wage, are those in “seasonal employment such as in agriculture, workers on part-time basis and allied employment”. It is, however, binding on organisations with 50 employees and above.

Yes, the new N18,000 minimum wage was arrived at by consensus after the social partners agreed that many employers may not be in a position to pay the N22,500 initially agreed on. Unlike the year 2000 minimum wage negotiation, state governments were represented during the present negotiation. This in effect means that civil servants both in the mainstream and the parastatals were to smile home monthly with fat pay envelopes.

Suffice it to say that this gesture, no doubt, has in no mean way demonstrated that Jonathan is indeed a benevolent and liberal man, who imbibes the spirit of the proverb of ‘live and let’s live’. Yes, Jonathan’s gesture also shows that he is caring and carrying along all employees of government.

Sadly enough, in the past few months, speculations were rife that state governors would not implement the new minimum wage, following some pronouncements and insinuation by state governors. The pronouncements, no doubt, dampened the morale of civil servants across the country. But given the Federal Government’s recent move and that of the state governors, the hopes of workers appear to have been rekindled.

Happily, the 36 state governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), last weekend, bowed to pressure of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and agreed to pay the N18,000.00 minimum wage to their workers.

Addressing newsmen shortly after the forum’s meeting held at the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja, Rt. Hon Chibuike Amaechi, chairman of governors’ forum and Rivers State Governor, said it became imperative for the governors to implement the N18,000 minimum wage for workers because there is an Act legalising it and they must comply with the wage Act.

Though Governor Amaechi was silent on when the payment would kick-off in each state while reading the communiqué, but speaking with newsmen later, he stressed that each state was expected to negotiate that with labour unions in their respective states on when the implementation would kick-start. Hear him: “You see, there is no way we can on our own, develop our states without the co-operation of the workers. In fact, we see them as partners and that is why we are appealing to them to shelve their proposed strike. “There is no need for it (strike) again because we have all agreed to pay them the minimum wage, which we also considered to be a law and as law enforcers in our different states, we won’t go against the law” Amaechi said.

Well, unconfirmed reports say some states might get arrears when the states start the new minimum wage implementation, depending on the bargaining powers of their labour leaders and the availability of resources to pay. According to Governor Amaechi, “no governor would want to deprive his workers their benefits because these workers are the engine-room of our states. We won’t have money and begin to say there is no money, after all, we are all working to achieve common goal, which is to make life better for the people”.

Well, now that the federal authorities and the state governors appear to be serious over the minimum wage implementation, it behoves all workers to rise to the occasion and perform their job(s) creditably, to justify the purpose for which they were employed.

But employees in the civil service, being the engine room of government, must redouble their efforts in the discharge of their schedules, as they await the implementation of the new minimum wage.

As the saying goes, “to whom much is given, much is expected. Therefore, public servants must reciprocate the new salary package, although yet to be implemented. They must imbibe the spirit of hardwork in order to improve their productivity.

To achieve this, top government functionaries, must henceforth beam their searchlight on indolent workers, and those found wanting should be shown the way out, no matter whose ox is gored. Yes, they cannot enjoy fat monthly pay envelopes and exhibit indiscipline.

It is common knowledge that government’s job is always seen or regarded as “no man’s job”. That was in the past. It must no longer be so now.

At this juncture, it is also imperative to state that the policy of salary review for civil servants, is one of the devices of any government to move workers on the path of sustainable economic recovery and development.Therefore, the government’s current resolve to review upward the salary of civil servants must be reciprocated (through hardwork) by all concerned.

All said, as civil servants await the new minimum wage, it is hoped that its implementation will not be delayed unnecessarily by the authorities concerned.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), have insisted that the planned 3-day warning strike, billed to commence today nationwide, must be obeyed by all workers across the country in spite of the promise by the state governors that they would implement the new minimum wage.

The organised labour’s insistence on the planned strike, is premised on the fact that the governors were silent on when exactly they would implement the new minimum wage. The governors are being seen by labour as not sincere and honest over this touchy national issue, hence the insistence on the nationwide strike.