January 1, 2023
There are indications that the organised labour may meet with both the federal and state governments over plans to increase workers’ allowances in the New Year without a commensurate increment in salaries in the face of rising inflation and escalating costs of goods and services.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, had on Tuesday raised the hope of public and civil servants by saying the Presidential Committee on Salaries was carrying out a review of the existing salary structures and was expected to come up with salary adjustment early in 2023 to cushion the effects of the high inflation rate in the country.
Ngige had told State House correspondents after a visit to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), “Yes…the Presidential Committee on Salaries is working hand-in-hand with the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission. The commission is mandated by the Act establishing it to fix salaries, wages and emoluments in not only the public service.
“If you want their assistance and you are in the private sector, they will also assist you. They have what is called the template for remuneration and for compensation. So if you work, you get compensated; if you don’t work, you will not be compensated.
“So they have the matrix to do the evaluation; so they are working with the Presidential Committee on Salaries chaired by the finance minister and I’m the co-chair to look at the demands of the workers. Outside this, I said discussions on that evaluation are going.
“As we enter the New Year, the government will make some pronouncements in that direction.”
‘Only allowances’ll rise’
However, the minister recanted his earlier position on Saturday and denied saying that the Federal Government was reviewing the salaries of public and civil servants.
Ngige said the increase he alluded to was on the remunerations and emoluments of the affected workers, especially civil servants.
The minister’s denial was contained in a statement by the Head, Public Relations at the ministry, Mr Olajide Oshundun.
The statement read in part, “The attention of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has been drawn to the news item that the FG is reviewing salaries of public and civil servants, which was a fallout of his interaction with State House correspondents after his recent audience with Mr President.
“The minister wishes to clarify that the increase he talked about was on the remunerations and emoluments of the affected workers, especially the civil servants.”
The statement said the Presidential Committee on Salaries, through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, had received recommendations for the review of allowances of many Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government.
“Because salary component is not being reviewed for now by the committee, it addressed the allowances component of the requests, including the peculiar allowance for Federal Civil Servants, among others,” it added.
According to the ministry, in labour parlance, remuneration or emolument is made up of salary component and earned allowance component.
It added, “Therefore, the FG through the PCS could not have engaged in the review of salaries without involving the workers through their unions, represented by these two labour federation of workers in Nigeria – the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria – salary review or renegotiation is part of social dialogue and the product is usually a collective bargaining agreement usually agreed to by both parties – employers and employees.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the minister made it clear to the press corps that it was still work in progress and that the end-product of this review of allowances would be submitted to Mr President for consideration and final approval, and that this was one of the labour issues he briefed him (Buhari) on, that day. It’s hoped that this rightful step, which the FG embarked upon on compassionate grounds without any prodding or threat to strike, will help to cushion the debilitating effects of spiralling inflation, especially that which affects food and energy prices (electricity and petroleum products).
“The minister wishes to reassure that the committee is optimistic that Mr President will receive and consider the recommendations before the end of the first quarter in 2023.”
TUC, NULGE react
Reacting to Ngige’s latest position, the Trade Union Congress called on the Federal Government to review the high cost of living and constant devaluation of the naira, which it noted had prevented civil servants from getting full value for their salaries.
The Secretary General of the TUC, Nuhu Toro, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents on Saturday.
He insisted that the Federal Government must go beyond increasing allowances, noting that the current N30,000 minimum wage was grossly inadequate to meet workers’ needs.
Toro said Ngige’s position that only allowances would be reviewed was unacceptable to the congress.