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FG, Labour and the new minimum wage

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THE organised labour has issued a statement saying it would embark on a nationwide strike on Tuesday  November 6, 2018, over the impasse on the new minimum wage with government. It accused government of being disingenuous with the whole process. I would advise that the federal government calls Labour to table and resolved this matter once and for all by reaching a reasonable comprise and save Nigerians yet again from another bout of untold hardship, and the country’s fragile economy from continuous hemorrhage.

Resorting to the old-fashion tactics of intimidation, blackmail and trickery have never worked; it would only make matters worse. This is against the backdrop of the recent release of a White Paper by government on the no work, no pay rule of engagement. The timing of this White Paper is ominous. Why now that Nigerian workers are agitating for a pay rise?

The government should know that the Rights of Nigerian workers are enshrined in the treaty of the International Labour Organization, ILO, which Nigeria is a signatory. What this means is that the content of the White Paper can be reversed to mean no pay, no work. An employee can refuse to work until paid. Many state and local government workers are still being owed up till this moment, yet they go to work. Furthermore, an employee whose services is not commensurate with what he earns can withhold his services if his clamour for a pay rise is blatantly ignored. After all, a poor pay is as bad as a no pay.

Come to think of it, the demand by workers to increase the minimum wage from the present N18,000 is justifiable given the immeasurable inflationary index in the country in the last three years. The propaganda by government that some states cannot pay is a lame excuse. Labour says that about twenty four states are in support of a pay rise, while some say they are still consulting. It is not the business of the Labour minister to speak for the governors. If it means increasing the federal allocation to these states, so be it. A good percentage of funds that accrue to the federal account is got from resources domiciled in the states.

Thankfully, this clamour for minimum wage increase is coming at a critical time. The 2019 General Election is just a few months away. So, any serving governor or aspirant who knows he cannot pay a new minimum wage should not contest. If he does, he should be voted out. There are capable hands who have the competence and discipline to manage their finances well to deliver on their campaign promises and in addition pay the new minimum wage.

How many politicians whether elected or appointed and their aides can live on the slavish wage of N18,000 presently? Their monthly salaries are in millions in addition to bonuses like furniture allowance, sitting allowance, standing allowance and the like.

The call by our leaders on us often to tighten our belts, when theirs are always loosen is hypocritical. A one-sided sacrifice is nothing else but punishment. They cannot continue to live in splendour, while workers live in squalour. The jumbo pay received by governors and others viz-a-viz the paltry wage of workers ought to be a thing of concern for a government that claims to be fighting corruption.

Politicians fix their wages without imput from organised Labour and the Ministry of Labour and nobody says anything. Yet, the same people refuse to implement a new wage for workers who buy from the same market.

The fear of some governors is not the inability to pay; it is the fear that with a new wage increase, there would not be enough to loot.

As mentioned earlier , The General Election is by the corner. Nigerians, especially workers and their dependents should vote out all those who have sat on the implementation of a new minimum wage and by implication their well-being without political, tribal or religious considerations.

Such uninformed sentiments give our leaders the impetus to believe that they can continue to perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

Lucky Ofodu, a public affairs commentator ,wrote from Lagos.


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