Akwa Ibom Govt, Minimum Wage And Industrial Harmony


The Akwa Ibom State Government last week approved the new national minimum wage and thus joined a handful of states that have so far agreed to pay it to their civil servants.

With the agreement, the fear of a possible industrial showdown which would have engulfed the state has evaporated.

It must be noted that Governor Udom Emmanuel has always prided his administration as worker-friendly and has proven it with the approval of the new minimum wage without being prodded.

His recent action in granting the approval has come as a pleasant surprise to civil servants in the state who, on their part, have been more than loyal to his administration.

Akwa Ibom is a state where industrial actions have been rare or non-existent. As a state generally seen as one of the most peaceful in Nigeria, civil servants have largely been equally peaceful therefore contributing in no small measure to the industrial harmony in the state.

Governor Udom Emmanuel did as expected of him and saved labour the headache the usual rigorous and laborious negotiations that leave the atmosphere charged with distrust, strike ultimatum, threats and counter threats.

In the past, such minimum wage negotiations were like running battles between government and the labour unions, both trading insults and heating up the polity.

This time around, the whole due process of negotiating for the N30,000 minimum wage has been devoid of much wranglings, hand-twisting and possibly blackmail and axe-wielding.

It was common in the past for many governors who were unwilling to pay, to threaten workers with down-sizing, if they were to pay.

However, this time around our leaders need to be commended for their growing maturity in how the negotiations were handled.

Governor Emmanuel in particular saved labour from the stress of negotiation and table-banging by graciously approving the new wage as a New Year package for workers.

However, much still needs to be done for the Nigerian worker to improve their welfare. The approved N30,000 minimum is still far from a living wage the Nigerian worker needs for a meaningful living.

Therefore, the Governor Emmanuel Administration should still implement other numerous welfare incentives. For example, he should consider looking into the list of special salary structures of professions. Among them would be a special media salary which his predecessor was working on before leaving office. The file should be brought out from the shelf, dusted and reviewed.

Many professions and jobs have their peculiar needs such as hazard allowances. Government will do well to bring up such issues for possible implementation.

A lot of labour issues are still outstanding and among them is the matter of gratuity payment which has been excruciatingly delayed and moving at a snail’s speed.

It is frightening to note that payment of gratuity for those who retired in 2016 has not been completed which invariably means those who retired after 2016 still have long years to wait before being listed for payment.

These are labour issues that cannot be wished away but have to be addressed as soon as possible.

The Governor Emmanuel Administration has so far demonstrated it is friendly with labour and should sustain the relationship for the sake of industrial harmony in the state.

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