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Workers lament poor wages, lack of entitlements

By Toyin Olasinde
02 May 2017   |   3:50 am
Joe Ajaero, noted that May Day has become synonymous with the history of struggles by wage earners in the capitalist economy, who are controlled by the owners of capital and means of production.

Professor of Industrial Relations and Programme Coordinator, Trade Union, Labour Studies and Rights Education Centre, Ibadan, Funmi Adewumi (left); President, United Labour Congress (ULC), Comrade Joe Ajaero and his Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) counterpart, Comrade Igwe Achese; at a pre-May Day symposium organised by ULC in Lagos.

Nigerian workers have lamented poor remuneration, welfare and working conditions in most organizations both in the public and private sectors.

The workers yesterday said they were not in a celebrating mood as all the facilities needed to improve their lives were practically non-existent in the country.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and United Labour Congress (ULC), were unanimous in their views that workers have not actually benefitted from the nation’s wealth, while poverty had continued to buffet the working class.

Consequently, the unions have demanded the immediate adoption of proposals by a House of Representatives member, Ayeola Abdulkadir Abayomi (Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos State), who is sponsoring a bill to remove the national minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list. This came after the constitutional issue had been resolved in 2014 by the National Assembly.

In an interview with The Guardian, the Lagos State Chairman of the NLC, Comrade Idowu Adelakun expressed displeasure over the treatment of workers, noting that they are the engine that keeps the economy growing but have been treated like nobodies over the years.

Adelakun painted a gloomy picture of the workers situation as being in the worst economic condition for years. He said: “Labour creates wealth and the wealth has increased. But as workers in Nigeria, what has been our condition; have we actually benefitted from the wealth of the nation?

“In fact, poverty among the working class has continued to increase. We are just a pool of poor workers and therefore, I think this year’s May Day calls for us to dedicate ourselves both as leaders and members to our collective struggle to continue to agitate for what is right for our society.

“I have said it very clearly, poverty has continued to increase in our land, and that is why there is no way the issue of insecurity can be addressed without addressing poverty and unemployment. We will be deceiving ourselves; there is no way they can be addressed”.

On his part, the TUC President, Bobboi Kaigama wondered why “politicians, from councilors to the highest office are earning the same salary. The ability of the state was not put into consideration, whether the state is viable or not, whether they have the resources or not, they still collect the same salary structure. Why should they make the workers the scapegoats”

The President of United Labour Congress (ULC), Joe Ajaero, noted that May Day has become synonymous with the history of struggles by wage earners in the capitalist economy, who are controlled by the owners of capital and means of production.

“It is against this backdrop that every country within the capitalist orbit performs the annual ritual of speeches and display of fanfare while the real issues of exploitation, pejorative work place, and declining workers’ wages and welfare suffer at the back bench.

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

Ajaero further noted that Nigerian workers have many times been denied of their rights by government, adding that “it is high time we fight for ourselves through participating in Nigerian politics with the right motive of fighting for the right of employees.”