Labour kicks as FG stops N35,000 award payment
The organised Labour and the Federal Government are on a collision course over the government’s failure to sustain the payment of N35,000 wage award to workers.
Workers in the Federal Civil Service, in separate interviews with our correspondent on Monday, noted that the Federal Government only paid N35,000 wage award for September.
Following the removal of the fuel subsidy by President Bola Tinubu on his assumption of office, the Federal Government agreed to pay N35,000 to each of its workers to reduce the hardship caused by the subsidy removal.
The government, in a memo signed by the Chairman, National Salaries Wages and Income Commission, Ekpo Nta, stated that the payment of the wage award would begin to take effect from September 1, 2023.
However findings by our correspondent indicated that the government only paid the wage award for September.
A senior civil servant in one of the core ministries, departments and agencies said, “The wage award was only paid once and I assume that was the one for September. Since then, we have not received another. We all are confused as there has been no official communication from the government as regards the matter. We are all confused at the moment.”
Another civil servant, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said, “What you heard is true. We have not received anything else other than the initial wage award which was paid. The government cannot continue to let the citizens suffer. Our takehome salaries cannot even take us home any longer at this point.”
Also speaking with our correspondent, a civil servant in one of the Federal Government-owned schools in Abuja noted that the workers were only paid the wage award for one month.
“We only received for one month which I assume was for September. Though the peculiar allowance introduced by the former administration is still being paid alongside our salaries, we have not received any such thing as a wage award. The government needs to stop playing games with our emotions.”
The Head of information at the Nigeria Labour Congress, Benson Upah, in an interview with our correspondent said, “This betrays the government’s dishonorable intentions and is completely unacceptable.”
When asked if the NLC would take action, he said, “Certainly, the congress will do something about this but what it will do will be dependent on the appropriate organs of the congress. On communication with the government, sure, we will. It usually precedes our actions.”
But the spokesperson for the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Bawa Mokwa, in an interview with our correspondent in Abuja on Monday allayed fears of civil servants. Mokwa noted that plans were ongoing to ensure that civil servants receive their wage awards.
“The process is ongoing. They will be paid. The process to pay the wage awards has commenced.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has budgeted N1tn for minimum wage adjustments, promotion arrears and severance benefits for civil servants, an analysis of the 2024 appropriation budget released by the Budget Office of the Federation has revealed.
This is as the head of information of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Upah further explained to our correspondent that the congress would kick against any form of imposition of a new minimum wage by the Federal Government.
Upah told The PUNCH in Abuja that negotiations had yet to commence, but he expressed optimism that talks on the new minimum wage would start soon.
“No, not yet but soon, I suppose,” Upah said when asked if the congress had received notice for the commencement of negotiations surrounding the new minimum wage.
Upah said, “ The national minimum wage law is a product of collective negotiation by all the critical stakeholders, workers, employers (plus private sector), and government. It cannot be fixed by fiat by any stakeholder. Thus, any unilateral action by any party will not only be presumptuous but contemptuous and injurious to other parties and will certainly be at variance with the law and principles governing this variant of minimum wage-setting procedure.”