The Bauchi State Government has been criticised for its decision to deduct from its workers’ salaries to fund the fight against coronavirus in the state.
The state government is being accused of taking that decision without consulting the workers.
The state’s deputy governor, Baba Tela, who is also the chairman of the State Task Force on COVID-19, had last week announced that he and other top officials of the state government, including the chief of staff, commissioners and permanent secretaries had agreed to give 10 percent of their next three months’ salaries in support of the state government’s efforts against the spread of COVID-19.
The deputy governor added that civil servants on the rank of directors have also agreed to give five percent of their salaries, while others below that rank would give one percent of their salaries for the next three months.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Bauchi State had reportedly endorsed the planned deduction. This dragged the NLC into public censure for alleged “collusion with the government.”
Though the deputy governor had said the deductions would take effect from April, concerns have been raised that the decision was taken without consulting the workers.
The government’s plan has since generated heated reactions in the state as many of the workers, including top civil servants, criticised it.
The majority of those condemning the planned deductions are civil servants who demanded anonymity while speaking with PREMIUM TIMES for fear of victimisation.
A senior civil servant said “it has become one deduction too many in Bauchi State.
“We have been forfeiting one percent of our monthly take home for the state government to fund the Bauchi Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s Agency, (BASOVCA) – even that was done without seeking the express permission of the workers before it was carried out.”
A female civil servant, who identified herself only by her first name, Maimuna, said she would not “forgive them” if they deduct her salary.
“They are yet to increase my salary to the current approved minimum wage because I’m on grade level 8, and now they want to deduct another one per cent in addition to the old one per cent they have been deducting from our salary in the name of BASOVCA. If they deduct that money, it means I will forfeit two per cent to the government for the next three months.” 0
BASOVCA was established during the tenure of former governor Isa Yuguda to cater for orphans and vulnerable persons, funded by the deduction of one per cent of workers’ salary.
A Bauchi-based lawyer, Idrees Gambo, had told journalists that the planned deduction was at variance with the Nigerian Labour Act.
Quoting relevant sections of the Labour Act, Mr Gambo said all the provisions under the sections that talked about workers’ employment clearly underscore the issue of “consent.”
He said Section 5 (1) of the law made it clear that “Except where it is expressly permitted by this Act or any other law, no employer shall make any deduction or make any agreement or contract with a worker for any deduction from the wages to be paid by the employer to the worker, or for any payment to the employer by the worker, for or in respect of any fines: Provided that, with the prior consent in writing of an authorized labor officer, a reasonable deduction may be made in respect of injury or loss caused to the employer by the willful misconduct or neglect of the worker”.
Quoting subsection (2) of the same Section, the lawyer said “An employer may with the consent of a worker make deductions from the wages of the worker and pay to the appropriate person any contributions to provident or pension funds or other schemes agreed to by the worker and approved by the State Authority..”
Mr Gambo further shed light on the powers of the NLC and where the workers union cannot take the decision on behalf of a worker unless with the latter’s consent.
He said subsection (4) the relevant section expressly says that “No deductions shall be made from the wages and salaries of persons who are eligible members of any of the trade unions specified in Part B of the Schedule 3 to the Trade Unions Act except the person concerned has accepted, in writing, to make voluntary contributions to the trade union, “.
The lawyer who went on to quote several other sections of the Labour Act said no employer has the right to make any rebate from the salary of any worker without prior documented consent.
“Therefore, any attempt by any authority or person in that direction to deduct from workers salary remains an illegality, unless those deductions that are done in accordance with the Labour Act or any other relevant law in that regard”, said Barrister Gambo.
The Bauchi NLC had in a statement last week said it endorsed the move by the government to deduct in April, May, and June as part of the workers’ contribution to the fight against COVID-19.
The NLC statement states that “under the resolutions reached, Permanent Secretaries and their equivalents will contribute 10 percent from their salaries for the months of April, May and June 2020.
“Directors on Grade levels 16 to 17 both in the State and Local Government will contribute 5 percent of their salaries for the period of 3 months.”
PREMIUM TIMES contacted the NLC Chairman in Bauchi State, Danjuma Saleh, to find out if the union consulted with the workers before endorsing the plan of the state government.
The chairman declined to comment but quickly added that the NLC will be holding a press conference “today or Wednesday” to clarify their position on the matter.
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