Six months after President Muhammadu Buhari approved N30,000 as the new minimum wage for workers in the country, the federal and state governments are yet to implement the wage. And it appears the workers’ patience has been stretched beyond limit.
Now, workers are ready for a showdown. They have expressed dismay and lambasted government at all levels for what they described as insensitivity and lackadaisical attitude in attending to the welfare of their employees.
They have also vowed to commence an industrial action on Wednesday, October 16, if the Federal Government continues to dilly-dally over the issue.
The President signed a new minimum wage bill into law in April this year, but its implementation has been stalled over disagreements between the unions and government representatives.
Concerned Nigerians have said that since the current national minimum wage of N18,000 was instituted, workers have been forced to suffer huge inflation and astronomical hike in the prices of essential goods and services.
Workers who spoke with Daily Sun said the approved N30,000 was not enough to carter to their needs. They said they could not fathom why the government was still foot dragging in implementing the new wage.
A Basic Sciences teacher at a Lagos State-owned school in Alimosho Local Government Area (LGA), who refused to mention his name, said it was pathetic that some government workers were still receiving less than N20,000 as monthly salary.
In his words, there is no way the new minimum wage could sustain any family for 30 days. He pleaded with the state government to, as a matter of urgency, commence paying the approved wage in order to ameliorate the suffering of the many government workers.
“It is sad and unfortunate that Nigerian leaders don’t value their workers who are at the bottom of the ladder. Some of these people we are talking about do the most tedious jobs in the ministries, agencies and parastatals. In these categories of workers are cleaners, security guards, drivers, messengers and the like. Their duties are as vital and sensitive as that of any top management personnel in any department.
“Though I earn more than N30, 000, l must speak on behalf of my colleagues because l know what they are passing through. Some of them in my place of work have resorted to corporate begging as their salary can barely last for two weeks. I often wonder how a family of four live on N20, 000 or less for 30 days. It is wickedness to subject any worker, no matter how low in the cadre, to such a punishment,” he said.
Another civil servant with the Lagos State Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, Alausa, who pleaded anonymity, lamented that her salary could not purchase a bag of rice at the moment let alone fund other compulsory expenditure in the home.
Said she: “My salary is not up to N20,000 and a bag of rice is now N22,000. We have been praying to God in the last five months for God to touch our employers’ hearts so that they can start paying us the N30,000. I have been employed for four years without an increase in salary or promotion. If I resign, getting another one is a big problem.
“Some of my colleagues are widows with children who are in school. Many of us have to do petty jobs on weekends to augment the little we are paid by the government. But it is not easy working six and sometimes seven days a week just to feed and pay house rent. How long can one continue like this?”
When asked if the approved N30,000, when paid, would solve her basic needs, she said it was far better than what she was receiving at the moment. She said that it would also lessen her stress of working for seven days.
“If they pay me the new wage, instead of working seven days a week, l will have a day or two to rest in a week. It will not solve all my problems but my standard of living will improve. I will be able to eat three times a day against the two times I often eat.
“We are not supposed to be begging them to pay this money because I am sure that they can pay it. They should pity us. Foodstuffs are very expensive in the market and the cost keeps increasing on daily basis,” she said.
Lending his voice, a former staff at the Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Mr. Lugard Aigbekain, who spoke with the reporter on the telephone, said he left the ministry out of frustration.
“Having worked for more than 10 years and still receiving peanuts, I angrily resigned to start driving a bus for commercial purpose in Benin, Edo State. What I could not achieve in the ministry for about 11 years, I was able to achieve in two years.
“How can they be talking of difficulty in paying N30,000? How much is that and what can it do for the worker? It is more shameful that government is not even ready to pay the money. Some heads of agencies are buying houses in highbrow areas while their subordinates cannot afford three square meals. It is high time those at the helm of affairs told themselves the truth for the benefit of the pauperised workers.
“Most times, l make more than N30,000 in a week after all expenses. The new wage is less than $100. This can only happen in Nigeria and in some other African countries. And we still call ourselves the giant of Africa with this laughable minimum wage. It is a shame and I am ashamed to be a Nigerian,” he said.
Another concerned Nigerian, Pa Olu Ademola, said: “It is only in this part of the world that the cost of living will be increasing constantly while the people’s sources of income will remain stagnant. I don’t need to be an economist to know that something is wrong with our leaders. They are self-centred and they have been tolerated for too long.”
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), at the end of its National Executive Council meeting recently in Kano, stated that Nigerians were suffering from high cost of living condition, widespread unemployment, mass poverty and galloping inequality.
In a statement signed by the NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, and its outgoing General Secretary, Peter Ozo-Eson, the body called on the government to take adequate steps to develop people-oriented socio-economic policies to address poverty and inequality.
They, therefore, demanded the implementation of the new minimum wage. There has been dispute over the new wage, which various labour unions and concerned bodies have asked Buhari to help resolve without further delay.
The union also said the federal government can no longer hide under negotiation with labour to deny workers of their deserved and justifiable salary increase. The aggrieved workers noted with dismay the continued delay by the Federal Government and other tiers of government to implement the new national minimum wage.
Expressing their grievances, the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) at a meeting with the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC -Trade Union Side) in Abuja, have warned that labour would not guarantee industrial peace in the country if their demands were not met by government.
The aggrieved unions have threatened to embark on a nationwide strike from October 16, if the Federal Government fails to reconvene the meeting of the committee negotiating the consequential adjustment on the new minimum wage.
In a statement jointly signed by Wabba, his TUC counterpart, Quadri Olaleye, and Simon Anchaver, acting chairman of JNPSNC (Trade Union Side), the unionists said that labour had all along demonstrated restraint and patience with government. But they vowed that they could no longer stretch their patience.
They pointed out that petroleum price had been hiked from N87 per litre to N145 per litre, which translated to a 60 per cent price increase, and that electricity tariff increased by about 60 per cent.
“Of recent, the Value Added Tax has been reviewed from 5 per cent to 7.2 per cent.
“The nonchalant attitude of the government negotiating side has dragged negotiations for consequential wages adjustment unduly.
“We view the position of government as a show of insensitivity to the general plight of workers and an attempt to collect with the left hand what government has offered with the right hand.
“We demand immediate implementation of the signed agreement on consequential adjustment of public workers’ salaries with effect from April 18 when the new national minimum wage of N30,000 per month was signed into law,” they said.