By Ekemini Simon
The newly appointed Chief of Staff to Governor Udom Emmanuel, Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-eyen has fired his first salvo after assumption of office with a recommendation to the Governor to
review downward the recent minimum wage enjoyed by workers in Akwa Ibom State Civil Service.
In a letter he addressed to the Governor on June 25, 2020 with reference number COS/AKS/S/12/VOL.1/016 and exclusively obtained by this reporter, Inyang-eyen recommended Governor Udom Emmanuel to review the Consolidated Akwa Ibom State Enhanced Salary Structure (CONAKESS) in line with what he described as the new national minimum wage of the Federal Government of Nigeria, effective from June 1, 2020.
Part of the letter reads “In view of the economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 Pandemic to the financial wellbeing of Akwa Ibom State, I wish to recommend, a general review of the Akwa Ibom State Minimum wage scale which was approved with effect from 1st January 2020 by the Akwa Ibom State Government”.
Governor Emmanuel’s Chief of Staff argued that what Akwa Ibom workers earn is above the National Minimum Wage hence the need to review their salary.
He said: “It is imperative, to align the pay roll of Akwa Ibom State with the National Minimum Wage as implemented by the Federal Government of Nigeria”.
Responding to the letter, Governor Udom Emmanuel on the same day directed the Permanent Secretary, Governor’s Office, Dr Nathaniel Adiakpan to direct the Accountant General, Head of Service and Commissioner for Finance to review and implement the recommendation of his Chief of Staff.
In a letter by the Permanent Secretary of Governor House dated June 25, 2020, with reference number GHU/AKS/S/175/VOL.1/38 and addressed to the Head of Service, Commissioner for Finance and Accountant General, Adiakpan presented the information for action.
It has been gathered that the State Government has moved to implement the review without meeting with labour leaders to strike an agreement.
According to some workers who have seen print out of June salary, there are some shortfalls in the salary structure of workers in various levels.
Reacting to the development, the Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Sunny James noted that the
Labour movement in the State is embarrassed by the plan of the State Government to unilaterally review the new minimum wage that the labour leaders and government of Akwa Ibom State freely entered into on January 1, 2020.
The NLC Chairman explained that the effect of the secular on the said review is that workers of Akwa Ibom State who are on Grade level 1 to 6 and level 10 to 17 will have different degree of monies shortened from their salaries.
He added: “The government has failed in their responsibility realizing that negotiations freely entered with labour cannot be unilaterally adjusted.
“The Labour movement in Akwa Ibom State seriously frown at this attitude of government who are always at the point of fighting with their workers. No reasonable government in Nigeria will do what they are doing in Akwa Ibom State.”
Comrade James insisted that it is unthinkable for government to discard the agreement that was reached by the government and labour leaders on salary tables and then sit on their own to review the table without reaching another agreement with the signatures of labour leaders in the interest of industrial peace.
He called on Akwa Ibom State Government to return the salary of workers deducted else workers in Akwa Ibom State will be spoiled for war.
The NLC Boss said: “Akwa Ibom State government should return the salaries of workers. Without that, in the next couple of days, we are going to serve the government our position officially. Where that is not reversed, we doubt seriously if Akwa Ibom State workers will not go to the streets.”
The Chairman insisted that no matter the challenges faced, Akwa Ibom state government should continue to dialogue with labour movement so as to arrive at what he described as a win win situation.
Comrade James noted that the reason June salary is delayed as compared to other months is because the State government is effecting changes in the salary structure of workers.
Speaking to TheMail Newspaper to lend his voice on the development, the Vice Chairman and Acting Secretary of NLC, Comrade Iboro Ibara wondered the reason Akwa Ibom State which ranks as one of the richest States in the Country will push hard to unilaterally review the salary structure of workers.
While nothing that Akwa Ibom workers are solidly behind the Labour Leaders in their bid to resist the unilateral review, he added “What happened in the United States of America will happen in Akwa Ibom State because the lives of Akwa Ibom workers really matter.”
Attempts by our reporter to reach Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-eyen for comment proved abortive as he did not respond to calls directed to his known phone line.
Meanwhile, the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information, Charles Udoh has said that the planned reduction in salary is as a result of dire economic situation of the country occasioned by COVID-19.