Labour Unions, on Wednesday, lambasted the Federal Government for slashing the supplementary budgetary allocation for wage awards to Federal civil servants by N100bn, warning that this was not the agreement they had with the government.
Data obtained from the newly Revised 2023 Supplementary Budget, indicated that in the proposed document, the four-month wage award was to cost the Federal Government around N210bn. However, the approved and newly revised document showed that it would now cost the Federal Government about N110bn.
Recall that the Federal Government, as part of steps to assuage labour unions, had granted a wage award of N35,000 to all federal government workers “beginning from September pending when a new national minimum wage is expected to have been signed into law.”
President Bola Tinubu had declared during his Independence Day speech that “low-grade workers” in the Federal civil service would be awarded a wage of N25,000.
The amount was then increased to N35,000 following discussions with the Organised Labour Unions, as this led to an increase of the wage bill to N315bn.
However, civil servants received a single payment of N35,000 for September only, and not for two months as promised.
It is still unknown why the Federal government decided to slash the allocation of wage awards for federal workers, but the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress warned that this would be resisted.
Commenting on the development, the Assistant General Secretary, Nigeria Labour Congress, Chris Onyeka, said the agreement was for the government to raise the wages of Federal civil servants and not to reduce them.
He said, “Are you saying they cut down the wage awards by N100bn? Well, we have been talking about the high cost of governance and if they decided to reduce their bills by cutting down their numerous aides and assistants, that’s alright.
“But if it is that they don’t want to pay workers what they are supposed to pay, then there is a problem. How can you subject workers to further reductions in their salaries? No way! We agreed to a wage award of N35,000 to all federal workers, so the wage award has to increase.”
Also speaking, the Head of Information, NLC, Benson Upah, said, “We were not informed before this was done. However, this behaviour is not inconsistent with the psychology of this government. It’s sad!”
The Trade Union Congress also warned the Federal Government against playing games with the wage award for Nigerian workers.
The National Deputy President, TUC, Tommy Etim, said, “The government cannot play games with the wage award because it was an agreement reached with the organised labour and the instrument of agreement reached was deposited in the court.
“The government is the manager of funds and our business is to ensure compliance to the agreement is reached.”
Efforts to get the Presidency to speak on why the wage award was reduced were unsuccessful, as officials contacted at the villa could not provide any explanation at the time of filing this report.
It would be recalled that the agreements made the organised labour suspend its proposed nationwide strike for 30 days, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federal Government.
But the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, had added a caveat that the unions would revisit the agreement if the Federal government failed to fulfil their demands.
Punch/ Oluwayemisi Owonikoko