Covid-19 and salaries: Lessons from Aregbesola

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) few days ago called for the protection of jobs and wages as the world economy suffers the effects of COVID-19, while also calling on workers to reject wage deduction by employers. In a statement by the president of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, on the occasion of the commemoration of the 2020 International Workers’ Day, the union said “on this occasion, we make the point that labour is not a commodity to be taken, trampled, and tossed aside. Workers create wealth and demand a decent fraction of the reward of their efforts. In reciprocation of the enormous sacrifice made by workers, we urge employers of labour to show solidarity with the sacrifice of our workers and people by ensuring wage protection, income support and social inclusion at these trying times. This is not the time to stop or deduct from workers’ salaries. Such an action would be both illogical and illegal as workers’ salaries are core elements of employment contracts and collective bargaining agreements. We have asked our affiliates and state councils to resist any salary deduction on the account of Covid-19.”

The great lessons in post covid-19 pandemic and workers’ salaries are: Osun modulated salary under former governor Rauf Aregbesola saved jobs of civil servants. It was new because 72% of civil servants between Level 1-7 got their full salary. It matters because Level 8 and above took much of government revenue to pay. What has changed is that the Osun State government developed skills to pay workers’ salary in a period of economic crisis and managed the meager resources.

With the gale of retrenchment sweeping through the private sector, public workers are not smiling either as they are variously owed months of salary. Many states are facing a hard time meeting salary obligations since the slide in oil prices, a development that led to about 60 per cent cut in allocations from the federation account.

Osun embarked on modulated salary of 28 per cent of its workforce to prevent mass retrenchment of its workers. Aregbesola used modulated salary to show his commitment to his contract and the future of Osun workers. He used modulated salary to save jobs in Osun and help the workers instead of reducing the workforce.

Modulated salary structure became a painful child of necessity in July 2015.* Up until then full salaries were paid to all categories of workers, leave bonuses were paid promptly and pensions were never delayed. Now, lets look at these figures which were captured in nearest absolute decimal numbers:

Prior to November 2010 when Aregbesola became governor, the average IGR was less than N400m.

The implication of this is that wage bill alone in the period under review constituted 85.85 per cent of gross total revenue.

The massive investment in infrastructure was a strategy towards jumpstarting the economy of the state. There is no doubt that the workers have made huge sacrifice towards the huge transformation going on across the state. History will be kind to them. It was tough for the administration of Rauf. It is important that this support is sustained in the interest of the state.

 

Inwalomhe Donald,  Osogbo

 

 

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