By Chris Onuoha
International Worker’s day known as Labour’s Day is celebrated in over 140 nations across the world on May 1 of every year. Coincidentally, it is also the Catholic feast of St. Joseph the Carpenter, and the foster Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is also marked as a holiday to celebrate worker’s contribution to national and economic development. In a chat with Rev. Father John Damian Adizie, Catholic priest with Adoration Prayer Ministry Egoro-Amede, Ekpoma, Edo State, he expressed his mind on right and responsibilities of a Nigerian worker on getting it right in the face of the current economic situation.
How should labour be practiced?
Labour is the essence of economic and national development. It is the key to success in life. We cannot imagine success, development or even feed ourselves and our nation without labour. That is why the Psalmist in the scripture declares, “By the labour of your hands you shall eat”. As we celebrate this year’s Labour Day looking at the theme entitled: “Securing Decent Work for Sustainable Social-economic Development”, it becomes imperative to reflect on some of the importance of labour, with special emphasis on the right and responsibility of workers especially in Nigeria.
In other words, labour should be practiced with dignity, sense of commitment with an eye on social and economic development for the wellbeing of mankind and the nation in general.
Pope Francis, describes labour as essential part of God’s creative and loving plan, However, Labour is not just a participation in God’s work. It is also a divine mandate and an essence of human dignity.
According to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, “Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. It gives you the ability to maintain yourself, your family, to contribute to the growth of your nation”. But unfortunately, here in Nigeria, most workers both in private and government establishments are not living up to expectations, or perhaps, lazy. They are only interested in their monthly salary neither do they care much about how and where funds for such remunerations are generated from. Individual attitude towards workplace is so worrisome such as lateness, waste of man hour on gossips, inability to define a full day work schedule with unattended files. All these uncommonly attitudes have a ripple effect on organization in terms of productivity.
Managements of organizations in a workplace are not left out in this saga. Poor remuneration, lack of motivation, none or delayed promotion of meritorious staff and sadly, office politics that favours certain people against hardworking staffs in terms of recognitions and awards. It is even a sad to note that most Government offices at local State level in Nigeria are not able to generate their workers’ salaries. The governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, in one his statements has vowed that the state will no longer rely on bail out funds or the monthly allocation accrued from the Federation Account to pay pensioners and worker’s salaries in the state. I see that as a welcome development worth emulating by other States in Nigeria.
There must be a simple synergy between an employer and the employee. For this noble vision to materialize all hands must be on deck. It requires hard work, honesty and accountability. There is no food for a lazy man. In the Scripture, St. Paul told the Thessalonians, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this, if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat”. A worker who could not generate his salary is not worthy of his position.
By right, workers should not just earn their salaries but should also contribute to state and national development. Poor economic policies by the government and even individuals are contributing to unemployment. Capitalism and privatization are purely geared towards profit making. Since Nigeria embraced capitalism and privatization, so many workers have lost their jobs. The work force has reduced drastically. The few ones that are employed are working without any breathing space. The so-called cashless theory is another factor causing unemployment. Electronic machines and robots have somehow taken up the role of able bodied workers.
In view of these challenges facing labour, especially in the area of unemployment and the dignity of the human person, Pope Francis stated in his passionate appeal, “I would like to encourage those in public office to make every effort to give new impetus to employment, this means caring for the dignity of the person. Labour is for man and not man for labour”.
Among the numerous challenges facing the workers, inherited debt is gradually becoming a tradition here in Nigeria. Yet, worker’s monthly salaries are not guaranteed. Just recently, a group of pensioners were sited demonstrating over 42 months’ pension arrears. You could imagine how these poor pensioners have been surviving without their pension. Most of them have even died of hunger and frustrations.
Withholding any worker’s wage is a sinful crime. The Lord God said, “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy. Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the Lord, and it be sin to you” – Deuteronomy 24:14-15.
The dignity of Labour is not and should not be reduced to money making alone. As important and valuable as it maybe, money is not everything.
In my parting words to both employers and employees in Nigeria as they mark the global Labour Day, it is important to remember that without commitment, love and selfless service, workplace will always continue to have problems. Pope Francis offers the following words of encouragement to the youths: “I would like to speak especially to you young people: be committed to your daily duties, your study, your work, to relationships of friendship, to helping towards others; your future also depends on how you live these precious years of your life. In a nutshell, there is hope, even in the most hopeless situations.