Comrade Nkah

The Chairman of Nigerian Labour Congress, Ebonyi State Council, Comrade Leonard Nkah, has reacted to the recent grumbling by some workers over the new minimum wage paid to Ebonyi workers.

Nkah Disclosed that the union negotiated within the confines of their strength and the environment they found themselves in Ebonyi, even as he maintained that what the state government paid to Ebonyi workers was based on the table agreed and signed by Labour and the government.

He stated this on Monday, January 13, at his office.

The NLC boss pointed out that he wasn’t part of the negotiation team, but however, he signed as a witness, adding that such was the case at the national level as the NLC president also signed as a witness.

Whilst he averred that he trusts the integrity of the people he sent for the negotiation.

He advised Ebonyi workers to hold on to what they have been paid, stating that he is optimistic that the present administration may have their salary reviewed upward just as they did when they came up with the 5% increment.

Below are the interactions The Voice had with the NLC Chairman Ebonyi state council

May we meet you Sir?

I’m comrade Leonard Nkah, the state chairman of NLC Ebonyi state council
What is your reaction to the grumbling that has greeted the paid minimum wage to Ebonyi workers. Some said it’s a bonus not minimum wage.

Some months ago government agreed that Joint Public Service Negotiating Council, which comprises of the Labour side and state government side will be set up and the 20-man committee was set up.

They were inaugurated before the agreement on minimum wage was reached at the national level. They went into action when the agreement came to be and the table came out.

And I really think they negotiated for more than two months. The speed with which we got the result of the agreement was not because we are too quick to rush into agreement but because this committee was set up on time, it was the first committee set up in the country.

After the signing, the agreement committee headed by the chairman of the Joint Public Service Negotiating Council, comrade Patrick Ekwe, at the end of hot deliberations both parties agreed the faction of the minimum wage that has been paid by the State Government today.

About the complain of some people who said they got from N700-1000, I wouldn’t know the veracity of that claim, because I know that some time people don’t factor in deductions into their pay.

Once your salary increases so do your tax and other things. I was with a friend who told me he got 10, 000 increment.

Federal government said this is a consequential adjustment not salary review. You know this kind of languages spoil things. Like during the Jonathan era, after the signing of the last minimum wage, he said that states have the right to negotiate on its own. This kind of statement will now give the states the power to start negotiating.

It is not made as a law, though they said it’s a law, but then it’s not a law so to say.

After the signing of this consequential adjustment, which means once the least paid is N30, 000, you adjust accordingly. So states now zeroed in on this and are negotiating based on what they feel they can pay.

In Ebonyi, it was a marathon negotiation. I believe and trust the integrity of the people I sent for the negotiation. Comrade Patrick Ekwe, as the chairman and the Secretary, Agbara Iheanacho, is also a credible person I can rely on as well as other comrades who were part of the negotiation.

Regarding the minimum wage paid, none of the committee members has said it wasn’t what they agreed and signed. I signed as a witness, even in Abuja, the NLC chairman wasn’t part of the negotiation. He handed over everything to the Joint Public Service Negotiating council at the national level and he also signed as a witness.

To the best of my knowledge except if proven otherwise, the table we have is the payment that is being made today.

Does it mean that instead of calling it minimum wage, we can simply describe it as salary adjustment?

Of course, we all called it minimum wage until they said that what they are doing is not salary review but consequential salary adjustment.

Because adjustment is based on the least paid, though you will still call it minimum wage as far as the least paid is N30, 000. It’s not peculiar to Ebonyi state. Even though their salary maybe higher than ours at the national level.

When we talk about minimum wage, people will be calculating times 10 of what they are receiving, but that is not the technical nitty gritty.

Those who were receiving below the N30, 000 are said to still go home with less than N30, 000 after deductions were made, what is your take on this?

The person has to bring this to the table, let’s see what the person was paid and what was added. Yes, you can still go home with less than N30, 000. For instance, someone who is paid N30, 000 and he has to pay tax, union dues among other things, the salary can no longer be N30, 000 because that is gross. We have to factor the deductions into the salary.
I know the expectation is very high, I know emotions are very high. People expected so much from the minimum wage but it didn’t come to be. We negotiated within the confines of our strength and giving the environment we found ourselves in Ebonyi state, but we made sure that speed and latter of the minimum wage was carried out in that negotiation.

What is your advice to Ebonyi workers?

Unlike the case in Ebonyi when the issue of minimum wage came up in the past, before you know it the Labour side will walk away and the government will start paying what they want. But this time around Labour was patient, the government side was patient until they came to a compromise. So we should go on with the salary we have agreed that’s the price of leadership and why you have a leadership.

When you say you don’t need an organized society there will be chaos and once Labour was not able to negotiate, it will lead to either strike or the government will just start paying whatever they like as they did during the last tenure.

Before the minimum wage, there were increments made by the government like the leave allowance and the 5% increment. So there’s still hope that the government will still adjust salary upwards in this state, since it was able to do it before the issue of minimum wage came up.

When should we expect the upward review of workers salary?

The time for the upward review of salary is not what I can give the date. But for the government to had thought of the 5% increment on its own, it is still very likely that before the expiration of this administration, there may be increment.

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