MAY DAY: Workers Worries and Demands

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FOR Nigerian workers, the past one year was a year they will never forget in a hurry. It was a year of massive depreciation of workers’ purchasing power, job losses, unpaid salaries and other benefits and general high cost of living.

So, ahead of May 1 Workers’ Day celebration, otherwise known as May Day, top of workers’ worries are poor wage, job losses, unemployment, insecurity. Members of National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN, during May Day match past.

Expectedly, labour leaders across the country will step up demand for among others, new minimum wage which has been on the front burner in labour agenda since 2015 when the existing N18.000 national minimum wage that came into force in 2011 expired.

While Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, counterpart, since 2015 have been demanding N52, 000 new minimum wage, the United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, is demanding N96.000.

Though a minimum wage technical committee has recommended the setting up of tripartite minimum wage committee, one of the tripods, Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, has made it clear that private sector employers cannot afford any pay increase for now.

Speaking ahead of May Day’s celebration on the reality of the N56, 000 new wage being demanded, President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, said:  “We have looked at the totality of the issues, including the challenges we are going through at the moment and we thought that what we have done is reasonable because what we have done is to look at what is the value of N18, 000 when it was signed looking at the inflation,  the purchasing power and  the ability to pay.

Social  partners

”So, I think we have been reasonable in making such demand and we hope also that other social partners will look at it from the perspective of us being very nationalistic in putting up those demands.

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On what NLC will be demanding from government, he said: “As usual we are going to be pushing for the interest of workers; not only workers, but the interest of the Nigerian public, from social and economic angle to security angle, down to issue of strategic institutions like power. All of these will actually be accommodated in our address. ”

All issues that pertains to development because it is when the economy is doing well that citizens of the country will also do well, and side by side with the issue of good governance. All of these will actually feature in our May address. But most importantly, the welfare and wellbeing of the workers will be pushed to the front burner because if workers create wealth then they need better attention.”

On his part, president of ULC, Joe Ajaero, told Vanguard “that ULC is aware that in periods like this the workers and their organizations are at the receiving end in terms of reduction on the purchasing power of the wages, saturated wages, outright and callous retrenchment and management having to owe workers for months with no hope of payments. Factories are closing down on daily basis and infrastructure is not improved upon. No electricity, no portable water, no roads etc.”

Enabling  environment

According to him: “For the economy to come out of recession, workers’ take home pay must be increased, as such ULC is insisting on N96, 000 as minimum wage. Government should be responsible enough to create enabling environment for business to thrive. The cost of doing business is too high in the country.

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”This is what should be done rather than high ranking Government officials wasting Tax payers’ money going abroad to seek for investors. The issue of security is worrisome. A situation where business men and high ranking and other officials are kidnapped and ransom paid with the security agencies being helpless is undesirable and not good for investors.”

Job losses

Also speaking, President of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Igwe Achese, said: “For the oil and gas workers, it has not been easy. We are the hardest hit as a result of the current global recession which has been worsened with the drop in oil price. The drop in oil price has made the multinationals and contractors to embark on endless redundancies.

At our last count, about 3,000 oil workers have lost their jobs because of the oil glut. We are been made to negotiate redundancies on a daily basis and coupled with the slave labour in the industry perpetrated by the multinationals and their service companies, who still engage our members as casuals  and outsourced staff with no condition of service. We will continue to resist it and use all the power at our disposal to put a halt to the menace.

Similarly, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, has decried the insecurity of jobs in the sector due to the economic recession, saying over 6000 jobs were lost in the sector due to harsh operating environment.

President-General of MWUN, Mr. Adewale Adeyanju, pleaded with the government to address the challenges of operators in the sector especially the high cost of doing business.

According to him: “We  equally  call on government and its agencies to enforce the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA,  Act which stipulates that registered Dockworkers must be engaged and granted access to the operation of private jetty owners.

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In the same vein, we call on Federal Government to immediately fortify the security in our water ways and also develop it as means of effective transport and employment generation. Indeed, Government should improve on the safety in our water ways to cub the activities.”

ASCSN demands payment of unpaid benefits

For Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, it is demanding among others, that the federal and state governments pay the backlog of salaries and other benefits owed workers, saying  “the federal government should take urgent steps to pay promotion arrears, some of which have been outstanding since 2007, first 28 days in lieu of hotel accommodation, Duty Tour Allowance , DTA, mandatory training allowance due since 2010, repatriation and burial allowances, etc, owed certain categories of its employees.

The Federal and State Governments should also stop illegal recruitment into the Public Services because it kills the morale of dedicated serving Public Servants; desist forthwith from appointing Permanent Secretaries from outside the Civil Service and extending the tenure of Permanent Secretaries because such practices violate the provisions of Public Service Rules and other extant guidelines and regulations dealing with recruitment into the Public Service.

Source – Vanguard

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