Workers’ Day: Lamentations over working conditions, unpaid wages
WORKERS in Nigeria today join their counterparts all over the world to mark the Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day despite the excruciating living and working conditions they are being subjected to.
Although the Federal Government has declared today as a public holiday, workers say: “There is nothing to celebrate except for being alive.”
According to them, they cannot celebrate when they are owed salary arrears, an indication that their contributions to national development are not appreciated.
The downturn in government’s revenue has not helped matters as it has compounded the workers’ predicaments. Many states now struggle to pay wages.
In Osun State for instance, salaries have not been paid and workers continue to groan in pains. Recently, the State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) blamed the non-payment of Osun workers’ salaries for the past six months on the alleged corrupt practices of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led Federal Government.
In a statement, the party urged the workers to exercise patience, promising that the problem would soon be resolved within two months. The welfare of workers also cost the governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam his senatorial ambition, as workers mobilised to see that he did not only lose his ambition but also that his party, PDP, does not win the governorship seat.
The same scenario almost played out in states like Lagos and Abia, where workers attempted to vote for the opposition in protest against unpaid entitlements and salaries. In Ogun State, the issue lingered for several months before respite came the workers’ way.
A civil servant who works in the Ogun State Ministry of Lands, said delayed salaries was a very serious campaign issue during the just- concluded governorship election to the extent that it could have cost the governor his second-term bid. He said his performance, wits and dexterity in addressing the matter gave him the victory at the polls.
To him, there is little or nothing to celebrate because workers have remained the sacrificial lambs in Nigeria. “When the economy is booming, workers would not be remembered in salary increment, the politicians would spend the money and when the economy nose-dives, workers are the first to suffer.”
“ For me, there is no motivation to work in the civil service again, since you are not even guaranteed your pension,” he lamented. Also a female teacher at Mowe, Aderonke Ayodele, complained about the relegation of teachers in the scheme of things, urging the incoming administration to ensure that teachers are given their rightful place in the country.
Indeed, workers are always left to bear the brunt of all unfavourable circumstances. In Kogi State, civil servants are likely to embark on an indefinite strike should government carry out its planned 40 per cent salary cut.
The Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Suleiman Abdullahi, said the decision to pay junior workers on Levels 1- 6 full salary while officers on Levels 7 and above 60 per cent, was unacceptable.
When the economy booms, workers would not be remembered, the politicians would spend the money and when the economy nose-dives, workers are the first to suffer
Abdullahi disclosed that the workers, through their union, were not involved in the obnoxious decision to shortchange them of their paltry take- home monthly payment, pointing out that the so- called shortfall in the monthly allocation from Federation Account should not be a burden on the workers.
He said the Nigeria Labour Congress has, therefore, given the government 24 hours ultimatum to change its plan or face the wrath of workers in the state, threatening that all government activities would be paralysed.
“There are several avenues that government can source for funds to augment the dubious shortfall, especially by reducing the astronomical number of political appointees as well as their jumbo salaries and allowances.
NLC, therefore, warned that should the government go ahead to post the 60 per cent of the normal salaries into accounts of the category of workers, it should be considered as bonus and not salaries.”
Also recently, Ogun State Government officials recently embarked on a three-day warning strike ordered by the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council to protest government’s failure to remit about N2.8billion deducted from their salaries to the appropriate agencies.
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