Nigeria: Blackout, Food Scarcity, Fuel Crisis Loom as Workers down Tools over Minimum Wage Palaver

Essential services in Nigeria like electricity supply, though still epileptic, food and fuel supply will soon become hard-to-come-by commodities in the country if the organised labour presses on with its threat to embark on a strangulating industrial action due to some concerns on the new national minimum wage.

Labour says they are having issues with the current state of affairs as regards the matter of consequential adjustment arising from the new national minimum wage of N30,000 per month.

Already, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) is allegedly being ravaged by avoidable deaths largely due to their unpaid salaries by agents of the Federal Government.

Although the union did not disclose figures, it is however, set to begin a nationwide strike on Wednesday that could adversely affect oil exporting activities in the country. The strike will be coming after the expiration of a two-week ultimatum issued by the union on June 13 over alleged non-payment of stevedoring contractors.

The threatening organised labour is operating under the aegis of the Trade Union Side (TUS) of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC), the eight unions in the public services of the federation including the 36 states.

TUS Acting Chairman, Anchaver Simon, and Secretary, Alade Lawal, in a statement expressed disappointment by government’s effort to derail the implementation of a new national minimum wage, claiming, ‘’as things are right now, the government side is only prepared to pay peanuts to workers as adjustment under the pretext that it will soon be undertaking general salary review in the public service.’’

The Technical Committee on Consequential Adjustment of Salary agreed to set up a technical body to work out different scenarios in respect of salaries that will be paid to workers who are in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that draw their emoluments from the government treasury.

The technical committee met severally and series of computations that were to be presented for the plenary for consideration were developed.

Initially, the TUS had proposed that since the minimum wage was increased by 66.66 per cent; from N18,000 to N30,000, salaries for officers on Grade Levels 01-17 should be adjusted accordingly to maintain the relativity that exists in the salary structure in the public service.

‘’But when the government side argued that such increase across board would raise the total wage bill too high, the TUS reviewed its demand downward and eventually settled for 30 per cent for officers on Grade Levels 07-14 and 25 per cent for those on Grade Levels 15-17. The government on its part was insisting on 9.5 per cent salary raise for employees on Grade Levels 07-14 and 5 per cent for those on Grade Levels 15-17.

‘’The two sides then agreed to capture the two positions in the technical committee’s report which will now be presented for discussion at the plenary’’, TUS said, adding that they received a rude shock at the last meeting of the committee when government began to hold on to a non-existent position that the panel’s term of reference was to base its assignment in respect of salary adjustment on what was provided for it in the 2019 budget.

According to them, the implication of government’s position is that the committee cannot go beyond what the government is pushing for which is 9.5 per cent salary increase for officers on GL 07-14 and 5 per cent for those on GL 15-17.

While recalling that after the Ama Pepple committee recommended N30,000 monthly new national minimum wage, government went to the press to announce that the negotiation was inconclusive, TUS added, ‘’with this turn of event, it is quite clear now that some fifth columnists in this administration are hell bent on pushing President Muhammadu Buhari to enter into a collision course with millions of Nigerian workers in the public service. This is very sad.’’

Continuing, they said, ‘’it is indeed perplexing that political office holders whose monthly take home pay runs into millions of naira are the ones working behind the scene to ensure that public service employees especially core civil servants continue to receive starvation wages. This is why the eight trade unions in the public service have resolved that enough is enough and that if the Federal Government fails to call its officials to order and direct them to negotiate openly the issue of Consequential Adjustment arising from the new national minimum wage, workers will have no other alternative than to take some necessary trade union actions to seek redress.’’

In the mean time, MWUN President-General, Abdul-Waheed Adeyanju, who made the looming strike action by maritime workers known in a statement in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, claimed that the union had given the International Oil Companies (IOCs) two weeks’ notice concerning the matter.

According to him, the union gave a two-week ultimatum on June 13 pleading with the Federal Government to urge the oil corporations to pay government-appointed stevedoring contractor monies being owed.

Adeyanju said he had urged the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Transport to look into the issue so that dockworkers could be paid their salaries and wages, pointing out that failure to pay government-appointed stevedoring contractors for jobs done had made it impossible for their workers to be paid salaries.

Continuing, the union leader said the situation had led to untimely death of members. According to him, the leadership of the union has directed that members of the union shall withdraw services throughout the nation’s seaports effective from 06.00 hours on Wednesday, July 3.

Adeyamju said that the two-week notice issued on this subject lapsed on Friday, June 28, saying that there was no indication that the issue was being addressed.

“Dear stakeholders, we want to use this medium to intimate you and the Federal Government of the non-payment of the stevedoring wages to dockworkers by the International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in Nigeria.

“On June 1, 2018, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) appointed stevedoring contractors to provide stevedoring services at various off-shore jetties and on-shore locations to the International Oil Companies and other operators.

“It will be necessary to inform you that NPA had held several meetings with these operators to grant access to the government-appointed stevedoring contractors, process their invoices, and effect payment’’, Adeyanju said.

According to him, unfortunately, the operators refused to comply with NPA’s directive one year after the stevedoring contractors were appointed.

“We commend the managing director and management of NPA for the efforts they had made to compel the IOCs to engage the services of appointed stevedores and registered dockworkers in their stevedoring operations. A stakeholders’ meeting was held on Feb. 28, 2018 organised by NPA in Lagos to sensitise IOCs, jetty owners, and terminal owners’’, he said.

The NPA management made it clear that in line with Section 27 OF NIMASA Act, 2007 only government-appointed stevedores and registered dockworkers are empowered by law to solely handle, discharge and embark on loading operations at the ports, jetties and oil platforms.

While Adeyanju is wondering why the oil corporations refused to cooperate with the newly-appointed stevedoring contractors since the modus operandi remained the same, the dockworkers are awaiting the payment of their wages because they could no longer meet their family obligations like payment of house rents, children’s school fees and hospital bills, among others.

“We can no longer continue to watch our members die prematurely because of the attitude of the IOCs’’, the maritime workers union leader said.

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