Another Workers’ Day was marked last Thursday all over Nigeria. Although echoes of commitment to workers’ welfare reverberated in most addresses delivered by governments at May Day rallies, there are indications that some states still kick against the new minimum wage. MATHEW ONWUASOANYA points the way forward.
JUST last week, Nigeria observed yet another May Day with other countries in the comity of nations in solidarity with workers. While commending the country for keeping faith with a national holiday it first marked on May 1, 1981, kudos must also go to Abubakar Rimi-led People Redemption Party -controlled government of Kano State government – for mustering the political will to declare the first Workers’ Day in any part of Nigeria on May 1, 1980.
Although as may have become an annual ritual of sorts, grandiose promises were made to workers in the addresses delivered by both federal government and the 36 state governors, there may be temptation to dismiss some of these promises as either platitudes or lipservice.
Even if it may be needless to mention names of those who workers pick holes in their May Day rally addresses – from both federal and state governments– in order not to degenerate into name calling, the fact that some of the speeches are either blandly daft or simply incompatible with present mood in labour sector inflicts lips with scurvy.
Yes, improved workers’ welfare was once again reiterated as an unassailable engine oil of national development. But not a few workers take such speeches with a pint of salt.
They may be right in a way for head or tail, what Nigerian workers in both public and private sector are craving is not fantastic talk, but requisite leadership nous that translates these talks to factual empirics.
Like their counterparts elsewhere, Nigerian workers are concerned more with a monthly take home pay that not only takes them home, but indeed takes care of their personal and family upkeep, without regularly running into debt or going cap in hand to landlords and market women, before their salary for next month comes.This is the nexus to the series of agitations for minimum wage.
Of course, not isolated from this calculus is the vital need to match worker’s demands with quantum of resources at his employer’s disposal, which if reduced to bare bone is his ability to pay. But because no serious thought is given to striking a synthesis from these two conflicting thesis and antithesis, the shortfall or gap is often denominated in arrears of unpaid salary and its concomitant industrial action.
While workers down tool almost at the drop of a hat to press home their demand, pensioners who have no readymadecounter-response all over the country are left at the mercy of whoever cares to prod their backlog of pensions to front burner.
That is why President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent assent to Minimum Wage (Repeal and Enactment) Act 2019 is commendable for, even if nothing else, making it compulsory for all employers of labour in the country to pay their workers the sum of N30,000 every month with effect from April 18, 2019. There is also no denying built-in legal mechanisms fused into the Act to give it stronger teeth.
That is why musings from some state governors, who rely on meager income to complain of the new minimum wage, may spin things out of hand.A lit bit of creativity in terms of revenue generation and belt-tightening policies, not antagonizing workers, will do a world of good that gives room for seamless implementation of the new minimum wage in these states. After all even during N18,000 regime, some of these states were still at pains with minimum wage.
With tempers still running high in some quarters following heats by the last general elections, Nigeria can do without another fire. While calling on organized labour–from Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and United Labour Congress (ULC) – not to see the new minimum wage as “victory over oppressors,” state governors should court not harangue lablour leaders to give effect to the new minimum wage with little or no acrimony.
Because every sector of Nigeria stands to gain from knock-ons of the new minimum wage regime, which apart from enhancing the purchasing power of Nigerian workers to bolster productivity and national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), will also stimulate the nation’s economy, according to experts.
Perhaps, any state who finds shoring its internally generated revenue (IGR) base toilsome should come for the Anambra worker development model.
Gov Willie Obiano, who remains a darling of workers because he regularly pays their salary and emoluments at a time more than 20 states are owing their workforce, will be on hand to give the visiting state some tips through peer review or mentorship.
Little wonder, the federal government conferred Gov Obiano with the Most Outstanding Governor on Workers’ Welfare Award, 2018 in recognition of his peerless labour-friendly policies that stands on the tripod of prompt payment of wages and salaries as well as commitment to human capital development. Little wonder, the Anambra workers called him “Alert Governor” even before that award.
That is why while many states – including those that get three times of what Anambra receive from federation account – still make heavy weather over the new minimum wage, Gov Obiano is poised to make Anambra the first state to implement the new Act.