James Emejo in Abuja
The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a motion calling for an immediate review of the national minimum wage to reflect current economic realities.
It also mandated the Committee on Labour, Employment and Productivity to interface with relevant stakeholders with a view to ameliorating the plight of Nigerian workers and report back in four weeks.
Nevertheless, the House congratulated, as well as appreciated all Nigerian workers for their resilience and commitment in the face of severe economic challenges.
The House position followed a motion which was moved by Hon. Ezenwa Onyebuchi on the need to appreciate the efforts and resilience of the labour force in commemoration of the May Day celebration.
The lawmakers, who went into extensive debate over the issue had expressed concern that though there exists a correlation between a productive workforce and economic growth as well as the overall well-being of any nation, the average Nigerian worker is often denied the sweat of his or her labour.
Specifically, the House noted that the resolve of the average Nigerian worker was being tested with the inability of government at all levels as well as then private sector to address issues of workers welfare, unemployment, casualisation, delayed salaries, payouts and pensions among others.
The lawmakers specifically expressed worry that the current economic recession had been hard on workers given the massive depreciation in their purchasing power, job losses, unpaid salaries and benefits.
Hon. Karimi Sunday (PDP, Kogi) had also observed that workers were largely dispirited during last Mondayâ€™s Workersâ€™ Day celebrations at the Eagle Square in Abuja largely because they were being owed huge arrears of salaries by their employers.
For instance, he said the Kogi State government currently owes workers up to 15 months of salaries arrears and 16 months of pensions, adding that the development could affect the productivity of the workforce and economy in general.
He also frowned at a situation whereby the bailout and several other interventions to the states were not useda to pay workersâ€™ entitlements.
Hon. Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rivers) said most of the states were not even paying the current minimum wage which is inadequate amid the high cost of fuel and other commodities.
She called for a well-legislated workforce to move the country forward.
Hon. Babajimi Benson (APC, Lagos) lamented that despite helping to grow the countryâ€™s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), thereby making it Africaâ€™s largest economy, work conditions of the average Nigerian worker remained poor.
Nevertheless, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara in his tribute to workers at plenary reiterated the resolve of the House in ensuring that a new minimum wage was approved.
He described the current pay package as a â€œTake home package that doesnâ€™t take workers home. â€œ
Stressing that there could be no progress without the labour workforce, he said the Competition and Consumer Protection and Corporate Manslaughter Bills currently before the National Assembly will improve the working condition of workers when passed into law.