A decision by the Federal Government to reduce salaries of public servants working in some agencies, where their salaries and allowances are way above the threshold of National Salaries and Wages Commission, appear to be causing confusion.
As of Sunday, the organised labour is set for showdown, as various unions told Nigerian Tribune at the weekend that they were not ready for any reduction in salaries and allowances of their members particularly at a period like this.
The government had also planned to increase tax revenue, in view of the dwindling economic resources.
Already, evaluation and grading department officers of the Salaries Commission have gone round the country, compiling data on such agencies.
Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, said last week that a circular had been issued on the approved template for the computation of operating surpluses of agencies, adding that “non-allowable expenses in the computation of operating surpluses include salaries and staff loans in excess of approved scale by National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission; monetisation of medical and other allowances; Business class travel for officers other than chairman and CEO.
Also salaries of some ministries and agencies were drastically cut last month with explanations that there was a new formula for determining personal income tax of workers.
Ministries of Defence and Information were particularly affected with some staff paid N50,000 less that their October take home.
But the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Alhaji Ahmed Idris, said in an interview that he was not aware of reduction in staff salaries.
According to a source at the Salaries Commission, “in the past, we extended invitation to some of these agencies including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), but they never responded. The team out there is expected to return to the office soon and submit their report to the chairman, who will study it and make recommendations to the Federal government.”
There was an outcry by Federal Government staff last week when a memo addressed by the HOF to all staff, titled: ‘Reduction in November 2016 Salary’ advised staff of Voice of Nigeria (VON) that “we received the Payroll report for the Month of November 2016 from IPPIS and observed there is a drastic reduction in the Net Pay of Voice of Nigeria staff.
“On further enquiry, we discovered that the reasons for the deductions are as stated below.”
According to the memo, the reduction in salaries came from deductions on tax, pensions and national housing funds which were all formerly “based on consolidated but are now all “based on gross salary.”
Contacted, the AGF denied knowledge of any cut in staff salary saying “if specific cases were brought forward, we may explain what happened on individual cases.”
However, labour leaders who spoke with our correspondents kicked against the alleged unilateral reduction in the salaries of workers in the federal public service and warned that the move would be resisted by the organised labour.
The President of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Comrade Boboi Kaigama and the National President, Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Comrade Oyinkansola Olasanoye, who spoke with Nigerian Tribune, frowned at the “unexpected and unilateral” reduction in workers’ salaries and asked for immediate refund of the money deducted.
However, the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said he was not sure that the salary deduction story is a credible information, adding that the congress had neither received any formal information about it nor confirm it.
Comrade Kaigama said “We kick against that and we ask the government to refund such deduction. We don’t know how they come about that. Workers have not been notified why, and about any increase in taxes. We will call on them to refund Nigerian workers their money.”
On the huge disparity between the salaries of workers in the core ministries and some of the government parastatals, even at same level, the TUC president said: “Is it now they are seeing that? World over, it opus like that, those agencies have their pay package different from that of the core ministries and can’t equate it. If they want to bridge the gap, let them increase the salaries of workers at the core ministries. This is no time for reduction of salaries. We will kick against it and resist it.
Also speaking with the Nigerian Tribune at the weekend, the National President, Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Comrade Oyinkansola Olasanoye, stated that it is wrong for the federal government to reduce staff salary without due negotiations with their representatives.
According to her, “actually, the Federal Government can’t reduce salary without informing the labour unions in the public sector. It is completely wrong. It is same government that declared the economy is in recession.
“Government can’t take such unilateral decision. Maybe they have met with the unions and other representatives of workers in the affected ministries and agencies. Maybe they have presented documented facts to their representatives on why it is important to reduce their salaries, that I cannot say for sure. But the government is bound to engage stakeholders before taking any decision that will affect the workers’ welfare.”
She posited that the government can only do such having put in place basic amenities like good health insurance for the workers, good housing scheme and others. She emphasized that ASSBIFI under her leadership will not support such move that will endanger workers’ welfare in any sector.
Comrade Wabba, the NLC president said: “I am not sure it is credible. I asked the chairman of Joint Council and the FCT chairman of the congress this morning but they said the information is not credible enough. We need to act on credible information and the FCT chairman and the Joint Council Chairman are the right people to know, but we have not received any formal information on that. Salary is a right of workers and nobody can unilaterally cut it or reduce it. I enquirer from them and they communicated back to me.”
Also, National Secretary of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Comrade Shuaibu Usman Leman in a release titled ‘Stop these deductions’ described the action as “not only callous but ill-advised and uncalled for.”
He lamented that in “this period of economic recession, the Muhammadu Buhari Government that was elected based on its Change Mantra cannot afford any confrontation with poor workers that supported the advent of the administration. We urge for caution on this.”