Labour and the hidden digger
Sir: Nigeria Labour Congress from every indication is gradually pushing the country towards a precipice, and if care is not taken may likely render the federal government completely immobile and governmental functions irredeemably paralysed in not too distant future. On its face value, and true to labour laws, a nation’s workforce deserves an upward review of its salary structure from time to time especially considering the effect of inflation and market forces. No doubt, workers need necessary impetus that can propel job satisfaction and ensure optimal performance. In saner climes, the welfare of workers is held as paramount and the best bargain is put in place for the working class. With sincere provisions of enough amenities to boost the worker’s morale, everyone puts in his very best to move the economy forward, and the nation presses on progressively.
But the situation in Nigeria is completely different and opposite, and neither the government nor the workers can make any honest claims. For whilst the government has often failed woefully to make adequate provisions for its workforce in the excuse of paucity of funds, the noticeable extravagance in government circles is alarming and suggests insincerity. On the other hand, most workers themselves have neither any job description nor the commitment required of serious employees. Besides, the Nigerian civil service is over bloated with so many utterly redundant workers who successive government shy away from relieving of their jobs in order not to incur the wrath of labour on one hand, or so as not to swell the unemployment situation of the country on the other.
With the exception of only very few states, most of the states of the federation are not viable enough for the large civil service they shoulder and depend heavily on the federal government for continuous survival. When the minimum wage was fixed at eighteen thousand naira, many states were thrown off balance, and even up till now, many are still battling with how to cope as many months of salary arrears remain unpaid even with the various bailouts by the federal government. The incumbent government inherited a thoroughly bastardised economy from a regime characterised by absurd and extreme looting. Yet the business of governance must continue. But it has been at the expense of huge borrowing to finance capital projects, improve existing infrastructure, coupled with the urgent need to create massive employment avenues for the teeming unemployed youths.
From every indication, Nigeria Labour Congress never seems to consider the dire situation the entire country is when pressing for its demand. Indeed there’s every likelihood that all that interests labour is just an upward review of worker’s salary irrespective of whether or not the nation has the capacity to do so particularly at this material time. Another fact labour seems to ignore is how states, which found it extremely difficult to pay eighteen thousand naira will be able to cope with the new demand. The question then is if labour is not acting as if it possesses a hidden digger and gradually digging the nation’s grave.
For what sense would it make if the federal government would now have to resort to borrowing in order to cope with the issue of salaries? Indeed why is labour never concerned about other nagging issues such as that of massive unemployment in the land, or the problem of casual employment? If labour must be realistic, what is truly workable or practicable is for every state of the federation to determine how much it can afford to pay its workers without federal allocation, and whoever considers such honest outcome as too meagre should leave. For instance, how logical is it to expect Lagos workers to earn same salary as those in Osun when the cost of living is glaringly different?
That done, the federal allocation can then go for capital projects such as developing each state’s mineral resources as a way of diversifying the economy, and creating more employment outlets for the teeming unemployed. Labour should therefore get its acts together and be realistic in its demand.
By Jide Oyewusi