28th June, 2012
The Plateau State Government has accused the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in the state of calling on local government workers to embark on an “illegal” strike.
Briefing newsmen on the ongoing indefinite strike by the local government’s workers over the non-implementation of the new minimum wage, the Commissioner for Local Government, Mr. Paul Wai, said government and the workers had earlier signed an agreement on the issue.
Wai explained that both NLC and TUC were only witnesses and not part of the agreement in principle and declared that the two bodies lacked the power to direct the workers to embark on strike.
“The ministry for local government and ALGON on one hand and the trade unions in the local government council on the other hand, signed an agreement in principle to implement the minimum wage.
“The NLC and TUC that directed workers to embark on strike were only witnesses in the initial agreement. This strike is therefore illegal and all workers are asked to go back to work with immediate effect.
“The time the union embarked on the strike, discussions have not broken down with government; government was waiting for feedback from the union when they proceeded on strike.”
The commissioner said the agreement between government and the workers was to the effect that the workers would only be paid 50 per cent of the N18,000 minimum wage due to the financial condition of the councils.
He said there had not been any significant increase in the revenue of the local government councils, adding that the current revenue could not sustain the N18,000 minimum wage.
“All parties appreciated the fact that the income of the local government could not accommodate the financial implication of implementing the minimum wage fully, hence, 50 percent associated with the N18,000 minimum wage increase was to be implemented pending the increase in the revenue of the local government councils.
“From January 2012 to date, there has not been any significant increase in the revenues of the local government council. From December (2011), the amount that was used as a benchmark, about N1.9 billion dropped to about N1.7 billion in January, February N1.5 billion, slight increase in March, N2.1 billion and it dropped N1.7 billion in April.
“This drop couldn’t sustain or warrant any increase in percentage or full implementation of the minimum wage at the local government level. Government has not failed in its implementation of the 50 percent as agreed.”
The commissioner urged workers to reciprocate government’s gesture in fulfilling its part of the agreement.
He said that Plateau was the only state in the Northern parts of the country that had begun the payment of the minimum wage at the local government level.
Wai said government was carrying out aggressive revenue drive to enable it meet its financial obligations while corruption was also being tackled to block loopholes at the councils.
“It is on record that Plateau state is about the only state in the north that commenced the implementation of the minimum wage at the local government level.
“Government has taken steps to sanitise the local government through the biometric system as well as redeployment that will be taking place concurrently.
“Government is already putting in place committees on revenue generation in the local government councils to help improve on the internally generated revenues.”
The commissioner also said it was not true that the decision to pay 50 percent of the minimum wage was the unilateral decision of government.
Wai said that government was committed to ensuring that civil servants’ welfare was adequately taken care of.
He, however, warned that government would implement the “no work, no pay” law should the workers fail to call off the strike and resume immediately.
“If the workers fail to go back to work, government will be forced to apply the “no work no pay” law.”