Monday, 1 May 2017

May Day: Nigerian Workers Groan Under Economic Hardship

As organised labour in the country joins its counterparts around the world to celebrate this year’s May Day, Nigerian workers have decried what they described as the harsh economic condition.
They called on the federal government to speed up the review of the minimum wage from N18,000 to N56,000.

During last year’s May Day celebration, the organised Labour represented by the Nigeria Lab our Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) had  made a presentation of N56,000 new minimum wage.

But one year after, the federal government is yet to set up a tripartite committee to begin negotiation on the proposed minimum wage.
The workers are also celebrating this year’s workers’ day at a time most state governments are owing their workers backlog of salaries.

They lamented that the nonpayment of salaries has further impoverished them as well as worsen their economic condition.
According to the Secretary General of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN),  Comrade Alade Lawal, not fewer than 19 states currently owe their workers backlog of salaries and pension.

Lawal said, “It appears that some of them are very wicked and deliberately impoverished Nigerian workers. You can imagine a state like Osun, up till last year, the senior workers have always been paid half salary so that governor will say it is paying salary which is not. The state which claims it is paying is Ogun and in the last 8 months, there have been deductions in the workers’ salary. So, as far as we are concerned we will say such state is owing”.
The workers also lamented that the current N18,000 minimum wage was no longer sustainable with the present economic challenge.

Speaking ahead of today’s workers’ day celebration, deputy president of NLC, Comrade Peters Adeyemi, hinted that the workers will avail themselves of the opportunity provided by the May Day to push for a review of the minimum wage.

He said, “We shall use this opportunity to renew the call for the review of the national minimum wage that is overdue for review considering the current economic trend. Inflation has increased, the naira has lost its value and the current minimum wage has been completely eroded. Therefore, the need and urgency for a call for the review of the current minimum wage.”

He said the theme of this year’s celebration, ‘Labour relations in economic recession: an appraisal’ provides the working class the opportunity to engage the government on how to revive the economy
Adeyemi said, “As the theme of this year’s May Day suggests, this is a time for us as working class to look at present economic situation that has witnessed negative downturn and the reality of the moment.

“We need to critically look at the opportunity afforded us to work towards achieving economic revival and chart a way to a national rebirth, economic recovery and advocate for the engendering of socio-economic policies that are pro-poor”.

Lending his voice to the call for the implementation of the new minimum wage, national president of Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporation and Government Owned Companies (SSASCGOC) , Comrade Mohammed Yunusa, in his massage to Nigerian workers, said corruption can be reduce to the barest minimum if workers in Nigeria  are well paid.
The labour leader also urged government to first understand that not treating workers well is a problem.

On his part, the President of United Labour Congress (ULC), Comrade Joe Ajaero, said today’s May Day celebration would be used to agitate for increment in minimum wage.

Speaking during a pre-May Day symposium held in Lagos, Ajaero said, “I am not sure if N18,000 takes workers to their bus stops to get vehicle. We are going to use this period to demand an improvement in workers wages.  We also warned lawmakers in the House of Representatives who want to smuggle minimum wage from concurrent to exclusive list”.

He condemned the call for the purported removal of minimum wage from concurrent list, expressing the union’s determination to reject it with all forces.

The Union said increase in the 18,000 wages to N56,000 would help in boosting the productivity of workers who are the engine of the nation’s economy.

Ajero said, “The minimum wage which workers are getting right now is not what we bargained for. So, we are using again this year’s May Day to seek good government provision for workers and improve employees’ working conditions, good welfare and also increase in workers’ wages”.

On his part, the state chairman of NUPENG, Tokunbo Korea stressed that the need for labour leaders to speak with one voice on the issue of minimum wage in order to get what belongs to them.

“The more we put pressure on government, the more they retract. The most important thing is to get end result on the issue. I don’t believe this government will go in a negative direction and we don’t know how they want to do it, but they must increase it”, he said.

He called on President Buhari to pull the nation out of recession so that Nigerian workers would be comfortable.

But even as the workers lament, the federal government said that it shares their plight, pain and suffering under the current economic hardship.

The government stated this through the minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige on the occasion of 2017 Workers’ Day celebration.

While commending workers for their uncommon resilience, the minister said the future was bright despite the current economic challenges in the country.Conference of the association, held in Calabar from April 24 to 29 .

It noted that although health workers face many hazards in the discharge of their duties, their output could not be compared to doctors who perform the bulk of the medical services.

The communiqué noted: “There is an attempt to harmonise the salaries and the Federal Ministry of Health is at the lead of that attempt, which is currently causing a lot of disharmony in the health sector.

“Medical doctors are highly skilled and few in the country; the cut-off mark for medical students now is 280 and above. Everybody wants to accept that title of doctor in the medical set up; we are not against that”.

Workers Pillars Of Nationhood – Saraki

Meanwhile, Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday described Nigerian workers as the life-blood and driving force of the nation’s development in view of their invaluable contributions.

In a statement signed by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu,  to mark the 2017 Workers’ Day celebration, Saraki lauded the resilience and commitment of workers in both the formal and informal sector, saying their contribution to the nation and the economy was priceless.

He said, “From the SMEs that contribute over 47 percent to our GDP, to the civil servants who are the driving force behind our government, all the way to the unregistered business owners who work to make a living for themselves and their families, every Nigerian worker in both the formal and informal sectors makes a priceless contribution to the sustainability of our nation.

“As we mark this year’s Workers’ Day, all Nigerian workers should be proud that their significant contributions keep this nation moving forward — as they are the lifeblood of our country, an integral part of the fabric that makes up our society”.

Saraki also stated that the Senate will continue to work to establish and enhance all legislation that will guarantee the safety and well-being of Nigerian workers.

He emphasised the need for governments across all levels and participants in the private sector to work towards ensuring that workers receive their salaries and pensions as at when due, while necessary periodic training should be availed them to make workers competitive in a changing world.

“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, that their  safety and well-being in the workplace are reassured”, he stated.

We Are Committed To Passing New Minimum Wage- Dogara
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara,  has assured that the House is committed to passing a new minimum wage bill.

In a statement to mark the 2017 Workers’ Day, Dogara 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 had become necessary in view of the  current inflation, naira devaluation and rising cost of living.

He said, “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 Represntatives 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”.

Dogara, however, enjoined workers, especially civil servants to rededicate themselves to duty and support government’s laudable policies and programmes.

APC, Ndoma-Egba Laud Workers’ Resilience Amid Tough Times

Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has hailed Nigerian workers for their strong support in the ongoing task to build a new Nigeria and bring about the change much desired by the citizenry despite the economic recession.

The party acknowledged the recession the country is enmeshed in, saying it “had a telling effect on the livelihoods of many working families and businesses in the country”.

In a message to celebrate this year’s Workers Day signed by the APC’s national publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, the party, while calling on Nigerian workers to continue to support government’s effort to better the citizenry’s lot, stressed that the APC government has aggressively formulated and implemented policies that support businesses to grow so that government can have truly rewarding jobs for all.

The statement made available to LEADERSHIP reads in part: “No doubt, the economic recession has had a telling effect on the livelihoods of many working families and businesses in the country. We are however happy to note that the country’s economy is gradually coming out of recession and the APC assures Nigerians that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari will continue to work hard to improve the livelihood of every citizen.

“The task of improving workers welfare, creating a conducive business environment to attract investments and grow existing businesses and creating jobs is a tripartite collaborative effort between trade/labour unions, private sector players and government”.

In the same vein, the chairman of the governing board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, has lauded the patriotic sacrifices and unbroken faith in Nigeria by workers across the country even in the face of tough times.

In a statement signed by his special assistant communications, Clara Braide,  to commemorate Workers’ Day, the NDDC chairman said, “Undoubtedly, workers the world over, are the greatest assets of every nation because the human capital is the bedrock upon which development revolves and thrives”.

Expressing concern about the purchasing power of workers which might naturally affect their morale, he urged the workers to remain steadfast and never lose hope, emphasising that the current economic realities was a necessary phase in the nation’s steady march towards a  truly egalitarian society, to which the APC government under President Muhammdu Buhari remains dedicated.

Cross River Workers Get May Salaries
Meanwhile, Cross River State workers yesterday evening received alerts of payment of their salaries for the month of May.

The payment, which was made on the eve of this year’s May Day celebration is coming a day earlier than last year when the state governor, Senator Ben Ayade ordered payment of May salary on the first day of May.

According to a statement signed by the governor’s spokesman, Mr Christian Ita, Ayade has made salary payment one of his administration’s cardinal objectives, with workers getting paid early every month.

He said the payment of salaries for the Month of May is coming barely a week after the payment of salaries for the Month of April in the state.

It would be recalled that during the celebration of Workers’ Day last year, the ceremony became frenzied as shouts of “alerts” rent the air once workers began to receive bank alerts regarding the payment of their salary for the month which was just beginning.

Ita said the governor appears to have trumped that record this year by paying May salary on the last day of April.

He added that workers in the state have often complained of getting paid too early in the Month since Ayade assumed office in 2015.

Reacting to the complaint at an event recently, Governor Ayade joked that getting paid early is a good problem for the workers to have.

Taiwo Ogunmola-Omilani, Ahuraka Isah, Michael Oche ANDREW ESSIEN, KAUTHAR ANUMBA-KHALEEL

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