By NBF News
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Enugu State Government has explained that the current disagreement with workers over the implementation of the N18,000 minimum wages is a difference of N300 million from what government has proposed.

At a joint press conference addressed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Patrick Okolo, Head of Service Nze Dennis Eze, the Commissioner for Information, Mr Chuks Ugwuoke and Commissioner for Labour, Mrs. Vivienne Eze, the government noted that in its new chart prepared in compliance with the implementation of the minimum wage, the least paid worker in the state would be earning N18,500.

'Before now, the lowest salary was N8,500 and we have increased it to N18,500 which applies to workers between Grade levels 01 to 06, but they want an increase of above N10,000 across the board, which the government has explained, would be difficult to implement, because of other pressing state matters. The government team explained that, going by the new chart, the state wage bill has gone up to N1.6 billion out of about N2.6 billion monthly allocation that accrue to the state.

'But what the workers are asking for is about N1.9 billion; a difference of N300 million; and the state make an average of N300 million from Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).' 'We have explained to them that we have pensioners who must be paid; there is N100m monthly subvention to Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT). Government doesn't want to go borrowing; we are paying contractors, running free education to SS3 and there is free antenatal and maternal care for pregnant women and nursing mothers. They argued that, if the state must pay what the workers are asking for, then the government must borrowed or downsize workers strength, 'which is not the best.'

'So, they are not asking for minimum wage because we have done that they are asking for.' Government warned that the ongoing strike by workers in the state may forestall the payment of salaries on the 25thof the month as has being the practice since the inception of the government in 2007. They explained that, the absence from duty of the officers who prepare the payment vouchers in the different ministries, department and agencies of government has stalled the computation of the variations with regards to the payment of the new minimum wage with effect from this month.

'It will be a sad development if workers in state do not receive their salaries on the 25th of this month like they have been used to since Chime assumed office in 2007, all because of a clique's desperation to frustrate the good intentions of government.' Stressing that the affected officers must take full responsibility for any delay in the payment of this month's salaries or subsequent ones, the government emphasized that it has fully complied with the implementation of the payment of the new minimum wage with effect from this month.

They maintained that Government remained open to further dialogue with labour and appealed to the workers to reason with it and understand that the current financial resources at the disposal of the government cannot support the salary chart proposed by labour.