The Plateau State government has threatened to deal with labour leaders if they are involved in any protest against the non-implementation of the new minimum wage for local government workers in the state.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in 2019 signed the new minimum wage of N30, 000 for workers into law.
While some states have started paying, some are yet to implement for either all workers or a category.
Hundreds of local government workers in Plateau on Wednesday shut down major roads in Jos, the capital of the state, protesting over nine years of “half salary” payment by officials.
Before the protest, the workers wrote the government, issuing a seven-day ultimatum for the implementation of the new N30,000 federal minimum wage.
In the letter dated November 25, the workers said they had only been paid 50 per cent of the federal minimum wage for the past nine years.
“We are fed up. We have been patient with the government for long, and now that they have forced us to go public, we will do this for as long as the issues linger,” said Joshua Bala, the Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Teachers in the state.
According to him, several correspondences from the unions on the issue were not responded to, before the last seven-day ultimatum.
“These issues have been negotiated before. A unified salary structure was agreed upon, and implemented for federal and state civil servants, but not us,” he said.
However, in its response, the state government, through its information commissioner, Dan Manjang, said the governor conceded to the rights of the workers to demonstrate peacefully but condemned the demonstrations.
“However, due to the disruption to normalcy and negative impact on the economy of the state as well as the tendency for the protests to be hijacked by hoodlums and criminals, it has become important for the government to put the records straight and lay the facts in the court of public opinion.
”This is more so when the demonstrators by their chants and pronouncement are vilifying, castigating and calling his excellency the governor unprintable names over a matter that is not directly within his purview, and inspite of his efforts to ensure amicable resolution.
”In the first place, salaries, emoluments and allowances of local government staff and teachers are entirely the responsibility of the local government councils that belong to a different tier of government.
”This has been reinforced with the implementation of autonomy to the local governments in the state in line with recent national developments. Therefore the governor has no direct responsibility for the implementation of the new minimum wage at the local government level nor does he possess any fiat to “direct” such payment.
‘Chanting solidarity songs by the affected staff to the effect that “Lalong ka bamu hakin mu” translated (Lalong give us our wages) is highly misplaced and to the say the least mischievous,” the commissioner wrote on Friday.
The state government has, however, .announced that it has obtained an interim injunction from the National Industrial Court holden at Jos to stop any protest.
According to Mr Manjang, the order granted on Friday restrains 14 unions and leaders from embarking on an industrial action or calling on any or all of its members to embark on any strike action.
This is pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction already filed by the Plateau State Government, the Attorney General of Plateau State and the seventeen Local Government Councils of the state.
The persons restrained by the National Industrial Court include Makwin Yohanna Arandong, President, National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Plateau State; Gana S. Ayuba, Chairperson Nigerian Union of Teachers; Selkur D. Stephen, Chairman, Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria and Briskila D. Dabit, Chairman, National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives.
“What this means in essence therefore, is that any such protest does not only amount to unlawful assembly, but contempt of court and shall be dealt with accordingly,” the official stated.
Mr Manjang warned the parties involved not to take the laws into their hands but allow the process of court to take its full course.
“Government hereby assures its citizens, workers and non-workers that it has their interest at heart and will not do anything deliberately to shortchange them in any way.”
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