Minimum wage: Rivers govt must negotiate new deal – Unions


Leaders of organized Labour in Rivers State on Tuesday insisted that they will not back down from their demand that workers should employed in the state public sector should be paid what they described as the appropriate minimum wage.

This was the decision of the labour leaders as contained in a statement signed by the state chairperson of Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Beatrice Itubo, her Trade Union Congress counterpart, Comrade Austin Jonah and the Chairman Joint Negotiating Council, Comrade Emechita Chukwu at the end of their meeting in Port Harcourt on Tuesday.

The labour leaders also affirmed that aside the struggle for proper implementation of the new national minimum wage for employees in the public service, they will continue to fight for payment of gratuity to pensioners and promotion of workers as and when due.

They labour leaders therefore urged government to reconvene the minimum wage negotiation committee to ensure harmonious industrial relationship in the state.

It will be recalled that NLC, had earlier rejected the amount being paid to workers as minimum wage by Rivers State Government.

In a statement, the state chairman of NLC, Beatrice Ituboh had said, ‘’The Rivers State Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC has called on the Rivers State Government to immediately reconvene a meeting of the negotiations committee on the new minimum wage without further delay’

“Arising from a meeting of all public sector unions affiliated to NLC at the state NLC Secretariats today, the union resolved that what was paid to workers as January salary was not a reflections of the new National minimum wage nor a product of principles of collective bargaining between the Government and labour

“NLC also insisted that henceforth, it will not tolerate the nonchalant attitude of the government towards its employees and urged workers to be alert and committed to their work as well as remain resolute as NLC will not be complacent rather must ensure that their welfare is given top priority’’.

On the sealing of it’s Secretariat, Beatrice Ituboh alleged that the action was aimed intimidating the workers but that Labour will not be deterred or intimidated

“We issued a statement  rejecting the manner the minimum wage was being implemented on Friday last week requesting the government to convene a meeting with the Organized Labour so that  discrepancies noticed in January salary could be ironed out. On Sunday night at about 9 pm the Government sealed our Secretariat and they claim they are unrelated?”

“How can you pay workers as if you are paying them bonus without an agreed structure, there’s no agreed chart taking into cognizance levels, pension arrears and even staff of tertiary institutions and many other sectors were not carried along in way wage is being implemented?

However, in a press statement,  George Kelly, Senior Special Adviser to Governor Nyesom Wike on Bureau for Special Projects denied said the sealing of the NLC Office Secretariat was not related to the minimum wage crisis with labour. 

“The attention of the Bureau for Special Projects have been drawn to a frivolous news milling the rounds that the NLC secretariat was sealed as a result of minimum wage related issues. This is not only untrue, but also a calculated attempt at misleading the public against the genuine intentions of government.

“As you may be aware, the NLC structure which was built pro bono by the Rivers State Government for Labour was completed and commissioned only a few months ago by the Bureau and it is our normal practice to carry out general inspections and structural integrity evaluation or tests before the expiration of the defects liability period. It is this activity that precedes the release of the 5% retention fees due any contractor 6 months or 1 year upon practical completion of the project. This is not new to every contractor or client in the construction industry.

“In this case, however, the contractor himself reported to the Bureau a structural defect which must be immediately fixed to avoid further deterioration/risks of incidents. The Bureau had to act expeditiously by giving him a go-ahead to conduct a thorough structural integrity evaluation in liaison with the Bureau’s in-house consultants; and of course this can only be done by first sealing off the place, because the place can not be in use while the exercise is on.

“It is uncharitable and ungrateful for anyone under the aegis of the NLC to misconstrue this exercise for a product of an imagined imbroglio between labour and government. This is sad!

“It is worthy to mention that the subject matter being discussed was graciously provided for the union as a result the cordial relationship that exist between labour and government and I’m not in doubt of the continuity of that cordiality. The proponents of that outlandish news in our own thinking can best be described as uncharitable, ungrateful and rebellious.

“The land was not revoked by government; the building was not seized by government. The Bureau is only carrying out it’s routine duty in ensuring that all infrastructure it provides are habitable and safe for use by our people and it’s our practice to seal off buildings when such exercises are being carried out.