*What we earn is a Slave Wage ? TUC Secretary
Enugu State Civil Servants are the least paid in the whole of Africa and they have continued to work under most dehumanizing conditions, President, International Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights Initiative, Comrade Osmond Ugwo, has said.
The Human Rights Activist also scored the Sullivan Chime administration low in human development index saying he has not seen a reflection of development in Enugu State going by the indices used in measuring developments all over the world.
Comrade Ugwu, a former Chairman of Civil Liberties Organization in the state, lamented in an interview with Advocate Nigeria that in addition to poor remunerations, Enugu civil servants were allegedly denied their basic fundamental rights of expression, assembly and agitation which, he said, was the hallmark of democracy.
His words: ?I can tell you authoritatively that a Director in Enugu State is paid about N91,000 a month including all allowances. A Director on a middle grade of about three years earns N87,000 as take-home pay and he is not entitled to vehicle and accommodation. If that is the state of the directors you can imagine what workers at the lower cadre are earning in the state.
?Enugu state workers are not only the least paid in the entire country but in the whole of Africa. I have carried out a survey on this and I can confirm to you that our workers are in penury.
?Apart from the condition of service being the poorest, the condition under which they work is most dehumanizing. They don?t have tools with which they work. Even those in the other sectors like teaching and medical, are suffering the same thing. That is why those in the medical and teaching profession have been protesting and threatening industrial actions.
?The most worrisome of it is that they are denied their basic fundamental rights of expression, assembly and agitation, which is the hallmark of democratic practice in the world. Enugu state is therefore as dictatorial as military dictatorship.
?The fundamental rights of the workers are being violated and they are in penury and that has invariably affected the entire population of the state because it is the workers that feed other sectors of the state. Enugu is not an industrial state; Enugu operates a civil service economy and other persons earn their living from the pay of the civil servants.
No development in Enugu
?The developmental process in the state is at zero level. It is only road projects that you can see as only developmental project that takes place only in the metropolitan Enugu North, South and East councils.
?In Enugu State today, nobody hears about the local government, whatever things going on in Enugu state are being credited to the governor, which means that the local governments are not working.
?It is high time people begin to look at the developmental policies of the state so as to be able to hold the government accountable for the resources that come to the state. If the councils are not performing their roles they should be made to account for the funds they receive.?
Continuing, Ugwu said: ?I do not see a reflection of development in Enugu state going by the indices used in measuring developments all over the world which is known as human development index. If you use human development index to assess development in Enugu State, definitely the state will score zero.
?These indices can be identified from the Millennium Development Goal (MDG). If you look at the provisions of the MDG, you will see clearly that the state cannot score any point in terms of development because the development is measured by the level of quality of living of the people.
?So, if development programme is not reflecting on the quality of security, education, health, dietary intake of the population, freedom and liberty of the people, among other things, definitely there is no human development and this cannot be found in Enugu State, and that is why the level of poverty is too high in the state.
?There is no job, those in the services their salary is too poor and there is high level of decay within the institutions and facilities in health and education sector. Apart from vehicles provided for the police, the Neighborhood Watch groups are not provided with facilities and necessary training and that is why you see a lot of armed robberies in Enugu both day and night and yet the government claims Enugu is the most secured state. The reality on ground does not support the claim.
?The policemen patrol the highways but they don?t get to the hinterlands where the people live and that is where the crime wave has been on the increase in the state.?
Reacting to the disruption of the recent meeting of the Save Awgu Forum, Enugu (SAFE) convened at the Golden Royal Hotel, Enugu by policemen acting on the orders from Government House, Enugu, Comrade Ugwu said that a situation whereby people can no longer assemble peacefully has invariably portrayed ?Enugu state as a dictatorial state and I call on the entire people of the state to rise up and defend the rights of the people and democracy.?
?That is the only way people can think about enjoying the dividends of democracy. Enugu state as it is now is a pariah state because it is against the existence of the people and this should be resisted by all.?
Enugu workers earn Slave Wage
When Contacted, Comrade Theo Obasiani, State Secretary of the Joint Negotiating Council, JNC, of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, painted a gloomy picture of what civil servants in Enugu State had passed through under the Chime administration.
He said that workers in the state had been earning a ?Slave Wage? while the state government had been maintaining poverty rather than alleviating it, expressing regrets that all efforts made by labour leaders to get a living wage from the government had yielded no dividends.
Hear him: ?We are very uncomfortable with what is happening in this state as far as the welfare of workers is concerned. We have been saying that the wage earned by civil servants here is unfair, an unjust wage and the whole thing boils down to ?poverty maintenance wage?. We have tried our best to solve this problem but the government is not willing to address it.
?What is happening in Enugu State is maintenance of poverty and not reduction of poverty. We are just maintaining poverty in Enugu State because on 25th of every month the wage is paid to enable the workers to continue to maintain their poverty and not alleviating it because what they earn is meaningless.
?We have dialogued with government and we thought our last discussion will end this quagmire but unfortunately the government could not do anything tangible to improve the salary paid to workers.
?The last salary chart the government brought had many flaws which we drew their attention to and they saw with us that there were many flaws but unfortunately up till this time I am talking to you government has not done anything to rectify the anomalies in that particular chart.
?What we have in Enugu state is almost a slave wage. In most states of the federation nobody is talking about whether it is a review, increase or minimum wage, other states that have the interest of workers at heart are talking about how to increase or improve on what they have yet in Enugu State we are still talking about minimum wage.
?Using the salary chart in the South East as yardstick for salary payment Enugu is the least. Even some ?analogue states? that do not earn revenue like Enugu, which has digitalized revenue collection system, are paying more than what Enugu is paying her workers. We have appealed to them, we have talked to them and still talking to them and we are saying let us dialogue and resolve this matter but the government seems not interested in what we are saying.
?Since 2011 the federal and other state governments have improved on the salary structures for their workers but Enugu State has remained static claiming that it is implementing minimum wage bill and it is very unfortunate. This has subjected the workers in the state to perpetual poverty. The government is only maintaining poverty and not alleviating or reducing it. What we earn is a slave wage
?The flaws we pointed out to the government at our last meeting was that the government is not implementing the minimum wage but the government claimed it is paying N22, 000 as minimum wage against the approved N18,000 for workers on Grade Level 1 step 1. We pointed out that they were not because at the end what the worker on that lowest grade level earns is just N18,000.
?They never paid N22,000 because there is nowhere in Enugu where anybody can pay N1,500 for accommodation not even for a one room apartment yet the government pays N1,500 as rent allowance. The normal graduation ought to be done in the salary chart are not there. So what they are paying is not realistic and they have failed to understand this.?
The wage we need
Continuing, Comrade Obasiani said: ?We believe in dialogue first, jaw-jaw and not war-war. We have written to the government drawing their attention to the anomalies which they said we should go back and midwife a realistic chart and we have since done that. But unfortunately they are now saying it was not incorporated in the 2014 budget. We told them to do a supplementary budget or virement to correct the anomalies. We also know that there were so many expenditures that the government had implemented that were not contained in the 2014 budget but we are not going to those areas.
?What we want is a fair realistic wage for the workers. So we have called them and we are still calling on them. The problem is not from us and we have said that let it not degenerate to the point of the handshake becoming a hand shove.?
In the entire country Enugu is the lowest in terms of salary payment, including states that are not oil producing like Ekiti. Let me also say on this issue, there is no state in any federation during the colonial or military era that has ever implemented No Work No Pay policy. The federal government never did, the military never did it and British Colonial Masters never did.
?But in Enugu State September 2011 salary of workers is still being held by the government for insisting on No Work No Pay. The government withheld the salary during the Minimum Wage agitation strike by Enugu workers.
?We have called on them to pay the salary. It is not a question of implementing a policy without considering its consequences. There had been agitations by ASUU and other trade unions in Nigeria yet such policy was not implemented against the affected workers. Why should the poor workers in Enugu be subjected to such punishment? Why should government ignore the cries of the less privileged that only agitated for improvement of their welfare? The government should pay the outstanding salary without further delay. It is however, very unfortunate that the government later adopted a divide and rule style as it paid some of the workers secretly and left majority to suffer.
?We have been appealing to the government to pay the salary because the money is not what they cannot pay. To ensure industrial peace in the state let them pay. Workers have been friendly to this government even when the government has anti-workers policy.?
See below current Enugu State Salary Chart obtained from the Ministry of Finance:
Source: The Advocate