By Bimbola Oyesola, [email protected]
The Federal Government’s recent plan to slash workers’ salary as part of efforts to reduce cost of governance may not go without opposition from organised labour.
Already, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has told President Muhammadu Buhari to call the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, the proponent, to order. This is even as the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) has warned government against the decision, which it said was provocative and inciting.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and NASU, in separate statements, said the minister must be called to order now before she sets Nigeria on fire with her “careless statements.”
President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, in
a statement titled “We have no more blood to bleed! Organised labour in Nigeria condemns and rejects plans to slash the salaries of Nigerian workers”, alleged that the finance minister had said that the Federal Government was working to reduce the high cost of governance by cutting down on the salaries of workers.
“The minister was reported to have said this in Abuja at a policy dialogue on corruption and cost of governance in Nigeria, organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission,” Wabba said.
The NLC president, who claimed organised labour received the report with huge shock, said the minister was also reported to have directed the 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 labour leader noted it was most unthinkable that government would even contemplate to unilaterally slash the salaries of Nigerian workers at this time.
“The question to ask is, which salary is government planning to slash? It certainly cannot be the meagre 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 and consequential adjustment in salaries that some callous state governors are still dragging their feet to pay,” he said.
According to Wabba, it is public knowledge that the multiple devaluation of the naira in a very short time and the prevailing high inflation rate in Nigeria has knocked out the salaries earned by Nigerian workers across board. He lamented that Nigerian workers are only surviving by a hair’s breadth.
He said, “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.
“This call for salary slash by Mrs. Zainab Ahmed is tantamount to a mass suicide wish for Nigerian workers. It is most uncharitable, most insensitive, most dehumanizing and most barbaric. Nigerian workers demand an immediate retraction and apology by the minister of finance.”
He opined that, 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.
Wabba said workers generate surplus value and revenue for government, noting that they 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.
“While many countries of the world are increasing the salaries of their workforce, extending social security coverage for their citizens and providing all forms of palliatives to help their people through the terrible socio-economic dislocations occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be completely absurd for the Nigerian government to be thinking of salary slash. This move is not only at great odds with global best responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also in violation of relevant ILO onventions and declarations on wages and decent work.”
Wabba urged government as a social partner to quickly respond to the demands by labour for an upward review of salaries of all Nigerian workers.
He said, “Nigerian workers have showed sufficient understanding with government through the tough patches of the pandemic. Now, Nigerian workers demand reciprocity of our understanding. Nigerian workers demand an increase in their remunerations and allowances. Enough is enough!”
In the same vein, the general secretary of NASU, Peters Adeyemi, said the union viewed the recent pronouncement by government to reduce salaries of federal civil servants as insensitive, provocative and inciting. NASU stated, that to continue on this line of policy would only provoke Nigerian workers and incite them towards negative actions that may lead to unintended outcomes.
“We plead with President Muhammadu Buhari to have a rethink of this policy direction of his government at a time when for the same economic reasons a country like the United States of America is considering raising minimum pay to $15 an hour,” the NASU scribe said.
Adeyemi said labour concede that President Buhari has refused to yield to the pressure from some individuals in his administration to retrench workers.
“We also note that his administration continues to pay salaries regularly. To us in NASU, these are among the actions of this government that are commendable,” he said.
He however stated that there is no other way of looking at the current decision of the Federal government other than a victory for those in the administration, who continue to be insensitive to the plight of Nigerian workers.
He lamented that unfortunately, rather than leaving workers to remain in their current state of abject poverty, they have decided to provoke and incite them against the same government they are working for.
According to him, no government official who wishes Nigerian workers well and is interested in the peace of the country will advise on this line of policy direction at this time, when workers are still struggling with the effect of COVID-19 pandemic.
“A time when the cost of living is extremely high as a result of hyper-inflation, extreme cost of food items as well as increases in electricity tariffs and the cost of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol),” he noted.
He expressed that the lie dubious political office holders sell to the uninformed public is that government is spending a huge sum of its revenue on civil servants’ salaries and wages, whereas, salaries and wages of civil servants are not the sole component of the recurrent expenditure of government. Recurrent expenditure, he explained includes all payments other than for capital assets, including salaries and wages of civil servants, bogus salaries and allowances of political office holders, their travels both foreign and domestic, interest repayments on foreign and domestic loans, bogus subsidies and other overheads of government.
“If government is sincerely interested in reducing the cost of governance, she should be bold and sincere enough to throw the search light at political office holders and members of the Legislative arm of government,” he said.