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Fed Govt Sets December 2019 Deadline To Pay Minimum Wage Arrears

The Federal Government said the payment of the new national minimum wage will take effect on or before December 31, 2019.

President Muhammadu Buhari signed the new wage bill into law on April 18, the date from which it takes effect.

Workers on Levels 1-6 started enjoying the new wage in August but senior workers from Levels 7 to 17 got the consequential adjustment sorted out after negotiations last week.

On Wednesday, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) directed that all payments and arrears must be completed by December 31.

Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige said states and private sector are bound by the minimum wage law.

According to the directive, the minimum wage arrears’ payment should take place “on or before December 31, in consonance with the National Minimum Wage Act, which came into effect on April 18.”

Ngige said: “The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had directed the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Zainab Ahmed to effect the payment. The FEC meeting was chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo .

However, mixed reactions by stakeholders have trailed the Federal Government’s directive.

Ngige said: “Today we sent to the federal executive council our report and the conciliation that was done last week between the organised labour and federal government of Nigeria on the issue of the new national minimum wage, which has been fixed at N30,000 a month and the consequential adjustment that were meant for salaries and wage structures of the public service thereto.

“You will remember that last week when I briefed the press, I told you that the salaries and wage structure … into four classes. Health, Armed Forces, research institutes and the paramilitary.

“So, they have percentage increase in their wage structure and for emphasis the 07 compartment received 23.2 per cent rise, grade level 08, 20 per cent, grade level 9, 19 per cent, grade level 10-14, 16 per cent and grade level 15 and 17 , 14 per cent.

“In the CONPPS, which is the pure civil service structure, agencies are earning the same wages as those in the public service. You have the CONRESS AND CONTISS which is compartmental 2, they have 23.2 percent equivalent and 14-16 10.5 per cent.

“Police and other security agencies because they have had a pay rise, last year, they were consequentially adjusted to between 4 and 7 per cent. Same goes for the paramilitary. They also have their consequential pay rise.

“So, FEC today approved for us that the financial implications worked out by the national incomes and wages commission that the salaries adjustment should take effect as from April 18, 2019 the day the new national minimum wage Act came into being.

“Council also approved for us that the financial implication be worked out and the payment should be completed on or before 31st December 2019.

“Council further directed that the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, through the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, should effect all these payments before 31 December 2019.

“Council further directed also that the national income and wages commission and the Ministry of Labour and Employment should send the consequential adjustment table down to the states and local government as an advisory document for their information and guidance for their national joint public service status in their respective states because the national minimum wage is a national law.

“I made it clear that our template is advisory. They (state governments) will now discuss consequential adjustments with their people based on their ability to pay and sustainability. Because all states are not equal.

“Those who are richer like Lagos and others will have to discuss with their Joint State Negotiating Council in the state just like we did and negotiated with the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council.

Asked if the directive is applicable to state governments and employers of labour in the country, he added: “What are they (state governments) still waiting for? All budgets are going to expire by December 31. All recurrent budgetary allocation will expire.

“It is incumbent on them to pay now from their 2019 budget. Everybody said they have budgeted for it. So why are they waiting? They want to carry it over to 2020?

“In any case, if they negotiate it with their workers and agree on fixed payment of the arrears, that is still okay for them but for us in federal, we are going to finish our own on December 31 for 2019 because we have it in our 2019 budget already as money law.”

The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, yesterday said National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member will enjoy the new minimum wage of N30,000.

He tweeted: “New minimum wage: NYSC members to enjoy new minimum wage/‘allowee’.

“Next week the Director-General NYSC will provide details of the new ‘allowee’ for the Youth Corps members after a full briefing from the Ministries of Finance and MYSD.”

Reacting to the directive, the  General Secretary of the  Nigeria Labour Congress  (NLC), Comrade Emman Ugboaja, said government cannot make law and break it.

He said the NLC’s next line of action would only be guided by the members’ position on the issue.

Ugboaja said: “We have our members that work in those places. If they say it’s payable before the date set by government, then, we will not accept it. We are not going to accept the FEC position hook, line and sinker. We are going to discuss with our members.”

The NLC scribe emphasized that the Congress would call its members to confirm to the leadership the reasonableness of the time given by the FEC for implementation.

“Definitely that will now determine our next line of action,” he stressed.

Ugboaja, who said although labour would not go to the street over arrears, labour would ensure that the arrears are paid from April when the Bill was signed into law.

He added: “If the government is ready to carry six months arrears, that is well and good. With what they are saying, workers have no problem. If they can’t pay as they claimed in November, that show the kind of system we have in this country.”

The Trade Union Congress (TUC), however, expressed satisfaction over the new date, urging the states to follow suits.

The Secretary General of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Bashir Alade Lawal, said labour was happy with the directive.

He added: “We are happy with the news and we want to say thank you to the Federal Government. The report we have been getting from states is positive .However, we still want to call on the states to go in line with the Federal Government position. We are aware that discussion is ongoing between the states and our states councils.

Lawal, however, warned that, if the Federal Government fails to send the consequential adjustment payment circular before October 29, payment may not be feasible.

He said: “Based on the way their system is arranged, perhaps that may be the reason why they are saying payment will be by December 31. But, we still need to get the details of whatever they might have come up with at the meeting and that will form the basis for us to react appropriately.”

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