Nigerian Workers countdown to May Day

Helen Shok Jok, Abuja

As Nigerian workers count down to the 2016 May Day celebration in this era of the change mantra, workers say they  will no longer sit down aloof and watch their leaders toil with their destinies and that of fellow citizens.

Workers through the two labour centres in the country,  the Nigeria Labour Congress NLC and the Trade Union Congress TUC, are waiting to tell state governors who for whatever reason have not been faithful with paying workers dues especially salaries as and when due, that it will no longer be  business as usual.

In Abuja Nigeria’s capital and other parts of the country, workers will converge on different arenas to take their regular march pass and solidarity speeches.

The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria TUC has said the government will be inviting trouble from Nigerian workers if it decides to neglect the demand of N56,000 new Minimum Wage being canvassed by organised labour.

The Congress also said any state Governor who cannot afford the new minimum wage on the excuse of lack of money should quickly resign because organised labour will engage such state government.

Speaking in an interview with journalists in Abuja, TUC President, Bobboi Kaigama said going by current economic realities, Nigerian workers should have demanded between N90,000 to N100,000 as minimum wage, explaining that workers are being considerate by demanding for N56,000 as Minimum Wage.

Bobboi explained that government spends so much taking care of prisoners, while neglecting the welfare of workers who he said create the wealth.

He said government spends an average of N27,000 monthly to feed each prisoner. According to him, this does not include the fact that the prisoner does not pay rent and other utility bills like water and electricity.

New Minimum Wage

Reacting to what labour will do should government throw away its proposal of a new minimum wage, he said, “That will be inviting trouble. What we are saying is that we have followed the due process. The law says after five years, there will be a review and we have followed that law. No government that is responsible will throw that issue away. You will be inviting trouble. But like we are saying, N56,000 is the barest minimum we have considered. Otherwise, if you relate it to what government spend on prisoners, then Nigerian workers should be asking for between N90,000 to N100,000. We are even being reasonable.”

Speaking on when a new minimum wage will come into effect,  Kaigama said, “remember the last one took close to 2 years. We had to move round the country to collect submissions from all sectors of the economy.

“Normally, the time frame of 5 years has already elapsed. We don’t have to give a time frame for them to respond. It is expected that as soon as they received our proposal, the process should be put in place. But where we would hinge on time frame, is on agreeing on modalities of our workings – when we will start and when we will end and submit our reports. I think that is where our priority should be.

 “If the other side does not behave reasonable, we will wake them up. If they don’t react positively, they should expect reactions from us.”

Speaking on the debate of whether state can’t afford a new minimum wage based on current dwindling economic fortunes, Bobboi said states who can’t afford to pay their workers should merge with other states that are more viable.

According to him, “Its not that they are not able to pay. It is the fact that they have mismanaged the resources of their states and they are lazy. There is no state in this country that cannot at least from there IGR pay their workers salaries. If there is any such state that cannot afford, we will demand for the merger of such state with a viable one.

Apart from that, there is no state in this country, apart from the first generation ones that demanded for creation of state without a provision in their demands that the first thing they can afford is to pay their workers wages from their IGR.

“Any Governor who can’t afford the minimum wage should put forth his resignation letter and tell his citizens that … he cannot afford to pay,”  the TUC President insists.