By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
.As FG commends workers’ resilience
•There’s need to review wages — ULC
LAGOS — NIGERIA Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and United Labour Congress, ULC, will today task federal and state governments on review of minimum wage, good governance, improved security, payment of backlog of salaries, unemployment and corruption, as they join their counterparts worldwide to mark May Day, otherwise known as Workers Day.
This is as the Federal Government, through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, lauded the resilience of Nigerian workers, hoping for a better future in the face of the current economic challenges facing the country.
President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Waba, who listed some of Labour’s demands, explained:
“As usual, we are pushing for the interest of workers, not only workers, but the interest of the Nigerian public, from social and economic angle to security angle, down to issue of strategic institutions, like power. All of these will actually be accommodated in our address.
“All issues pertaining to development will also be addressed because it’s when the economy is doing well that citizens of the country will also do well, and side by side with the issue of good governance. But most importantly, the well-being of the worker will be pushed to the front burner because if workers create wealth then, they need better attention.”
There’s need to review workers’ wages — ULC
On his part, President of United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, Joe Ajaero, lamented that Labour, since last year, had been agitating for a review of wages, citing hyper-inflation and devaluation of the Naira which have continued to impact negatively on workers’ take-home pay.
He insisted that the workers not only deserve wage increase, but also better welfare package in both the public and private sectors, noting that the national economy is wobbling not because Nigeria as a nation was poor, but because of deep-rooted corruption.
He said: “This is why, as a labour movement, we need to be on the streets to insist that working conditions of the people must be improved. ULC deeply appreciates and congratulates all workers for their continued perseverance against all odds, to continue creating the wealth which has sustained this nation within the ambit of the current unrelenting pressures of crass neglect and marginalization by the impenitent owners of capital, supported by their collaborators in the corridors of power.
“Once again, we urge government at all levels to address, among others, personal insecurity, unemployment, hunger, deprivations, fear, poverty, homelessness and, much more, overwhelming exclusion and alienation of increasing number of the masses from public social services and infrastructure.
“Despite all these challenges, Nigerian workers have remained stoical and standing. ULC doffs its hat to all of you. You deserve our salute. Despite the unbridled looting of our national patrimony, we urge all workers not to give up hope but to join hands across the entire national spectrum to create a strong platform that would challenge the forces of greed and the champions of exploitation.
“We urge our social partners, especially those who have responsibilities across all the diverse spheres of the nation’s governance structure, to come celebrate with us.
“The only gift we demand at this time is effective governance that would reduce the current mass suffering, deprivation and angst pervading the nation, seeking also to reduce the decent work deficits inherent in our workplaces which have made work and working dangerous in Nigeria.
“The future of work must be protected in Nigeria as that remains the only basis for driving the nation out of its present economic recession.”
“Recession has affected all”
In the same vein, President of National Union of Chemical, Footwear, Rubber and Non-Metallic Products Employees, NUCFRLANMPE, Goke Olatunji, said: “The recession in Nigeria has affected all the workers, especially in our sector.
‘’Our employers are not able to access foreign exchange which most of them need for importation of their raw materials.
“Second, a lot of our employers are retrenching workers and a lot of them are operating three times in a week because of this recession. But our prayer is that things should improve by end of this year.
“However, based on the understanding between the union leaders and the employers, we have tried to manage the situation.”
Also, Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union, RATTAWU, said with improved pay package for workers, the output would change as workers would put in their best to justify the pay package and avoid cutting corners to make ends meet.
President of RATTAWU, Kabir Garba Tsanni, said: “If we are given what we are supposed to be given, we will do what is right.”
Maintaining that good package for workers would boost their morale, he said: “If we are given what we are supposed to be given, we will encourage our members to do what is right otherwise, our hands will be involved where they are not supposed to. We call on government to please improve our packages, improve our salaries.
Minister lauds workers
Meanwhile, the Federal Government, through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has lauded the resilience of Nigerian workers, hoping for a better future in the face of the current economic challenges facing the country.
The minister, in a May Day message to workers issued by Olowookere Samuel, Deputy Director (Press) in the ministry, fraternized with Nigerian workers as they celebrate the Workers’ Day, said: “It’s a day that has its origin in the historical struggles of workers and trade unions in their efforts to win fair employment standards and, more importantly, to establish a culture of human and workers’ rights.
“The Federal Government is not unaware of the economic challenges facing Nigerian workers in the public, the private and informal sectors of the economy. We appreciate your resilience and hope for better days ahead.”
While acknowledging the contributions of Nigerian workers to national development, Ngige emphasized the commitment of the present administration to the enhancement of workers welfare.
He said: “May I use this occasion to appreciate Nigerian workers for their contributions to national development, unequivocal solidarity to the change agenda and the fight against corruption of the present administration under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Mr. President is committed to the enhancement of workers’ welfare, through programmes like the Federal Integrated Staff Housing Scheme, FISH, creation of enabling environment to stimulate the economy with the aim of improving the social-economic well being of Nigeria in all sectors of the economy.”
While soliciting continued support of the Nigerian workers to the change agenda, especially in the fight against corruption, Ngige added:
“As we celebrate today, I urge Nigerian workers not to relent in their support to the Change Agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari.”
Labour should fight for unpaid wages — CDWR
Meanwhile, in a solidarity message, the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights, CDWR, called on NLC, TUC, and ULC to unite and jointly fight for payment of backlog of salaries and pensions owed to workers and pensioners across the country.
CDWR in a statement by Chinedu Bosah, its Publicity Secretary, contended that the last two years brought untold hardship to workers and their families. He said:
“The minimum wage structure that came into being in 2011 is long overdue for upward review but the government has failed to review, while labour leadership is dilly-dallying.
“To add insult to injury, most of the states have been paying a fraction of workers monthly salary for over a year running. Virtually all the states and the federal government owe pensioners their pension, while some states wickedly owe up to 40 months.
“Now the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, has revealed that even the Federal Government owes workers about N290 billion promotion arrears and that this indebtedness dates back to 2007!
“This is so because the trade union movement failed to respond with sustained mass actions aimed at stopping these attacks from the ruling elite.
“Workers and pensioners are wallowing in poverty, political office holders earn jumbo salaries and allowances which are among the highest in the world. The pay of top political office holders are so scandalous such that there has been outcry for it to be reduced drastically.
“Reduction is not an option as long as these self-serving politicians wield power. CDWR has been demanding over a decade that salaries and allowances of political office holders be based on civil service wage structure, while the wage of workers should be increased to a living wage.
“Workers create wealth, a handful of bosses creams the large portion of the wealth, leaving the crumbs to workers and this is the basis of the ongoing crisis, of deepening poverty, high rate of insecurity, increasing inequality and depleted infrastructure, hence past and present capitalist governments are responsible for the present economic problems confronting the working masses through sustained anti-people policies.
Workers, lifeblood of development — Saraki
Senate President Bukola Saraki, has described Nigerian workers as the lifeblood and driving force of the nation’s development in view of their invaluable contributions, just as he said that their development to the nation’s economy and the country at large is priceless.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, in Abuja, to mark the 2017 Workers’ Day celebration, Saraki who lauded the resilience and commitment of workers in both the formal and informal sector, said:
“On our part, the Nigerian Senate will continue to partner with Nigerian workers to enact legislation that will guarantee that they get their dues at the appropriate time.”
Reps committed to new wage bill — Dogara
In the same vein, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara said the House is committed to passing a new minimum wage bill.
Dogara in a statement signed by his Special Adviser,Media and Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan, reiterated the resolve and commitment of the parliament to enacting the New minimum wage bill for Nigerian workers.
He said that increasing workers’ salary and wages has become necessary in view of the current inflation, naira devaluation and rising cost of living.
According to him: “I wish to congratulate the entire Nigerian workers as they join their counterparts the world over in commemorating the International Workers’ Day. While commending you for your sacrifice and commitment to the service and building of the nation.
“I wish to assure you that the National Assembly and in particular, the 8th House of Representatives remains committed to the passage of the National Minimum Wage Bill when presented by the Executive and initiating other laws and legislative interventions that will promote the welfare and well being of Nigerian Workers.”