Gift Joseph Okpakorese
The news has been reported of a deliberate and outright rejection by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), of the proposals of the Federal Government to undertake a downward review of worker’s salaries.
Speaking on the recent proposals of the FG, Ayuba Wabba, the President of the Congress, in a press release made in the FCT, Abuja, criticized the statement credited to Minister of Finance and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, that the Federal Government was working to lessen the increased expense of governance by cutting down on the earnings of Nigerian laborers.
NLC was also annoyed by the minister’s charge towards National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) to immediately review the salaries of civil servants as well as the number of federal agencies in the country. The NLC remarked that it was mind-boggling to hear that the FG could at this crucial point of the country’s economic woes, be considering a move to severing salaries of Nigerian laborers.
“The question to ask is; which salary is the government planning to slash? It certainly cannot be the meager national minimum wage of N30,000 which, right now, cannot even buy a bag of rice! The proposed slash in salaries is certainly not targeted at the minimum wage, a consequential adjustment in salaries that some callous state governors are still dragging their feet to pay!” Wabba said.
Furthermore, it was noted by the NLC that the depreciation of the Naira and its soaring inflation have put Nigerian worker’s livelihood at risk, a fact which seems not to be a thing of worry or concern to the FG in all facets of administration.
“It is public knowledge that the multiple devaluations of the Naira in a very short time and the prevailing high inflation rate in Nigeria have knocked out the salaries earned by Nigerian workers across board. The workers are only surviving by hair’s breadth. Indeed, Nigerian workers are miracles strutting on two legs. It is, therefore, extremely horrendous for a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to pronounce salary slash for Nigerian workers at this time,” the statement said.
Labour, therefore, suggested that the focus on the finance minister’s demand for a reduction on salary, “is tantamount to a mass suicide wish for Nigerian workers, adding: “It is most uncharitable, most dehumanizing and most barbaric. Nigerian workers demand an immediate retraction and apology by the Minister of Finance.”
The labor congress, therefore, enjoined the President, Muhammadu Buhari to advise the minister and call her to order so as not to make an already dire situation horrible, within the federation, as a result of her “careless” statements.
“If there is any salary that needs serious slashing, it is the humungous remuneration and allowances pocketed by political office holders in Nigeria who do very little but collect so much!
“Workers generate surplus value and revenue for the government. We do not constitute any unnecessary cost or burden to governance! It is also important to make the point that salaries are products of contracts governed by laws. They cannot be unilaterally adjusted,” Wabba insisted.
NLC advised that the national administration should borrow a leaf from what is being practiced in many other countries of the world who are increasing the salaries of their workforce, expanding civil safety coverage for their residents, and giving all forms of palliatives to help their people through the terrible hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the opinion of the NLC, it would be completely absurd and out of place to think of a salary slash or decrease at this point.
The Congress also remarked that “the proposal is not only at odds with the recent global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also in violation of relevant International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions and declarations on wages and decent work.”