Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration inherited a demoralised and restive workforce in 2015 but has succeeded in renergising Nigerian workers and boosting their morale.
In a New Year message to the workers issued on his behalf by his Special Adviser on Media, Nwachukwu Obidiwe, the minister said the understanding showed by workers over the challenges the federal government faced in repositioning the economy and sanitising the polity since 2015 was commendable.
He added that the government, has in appreciation, made enormous sacrifices to protect the workers and secure their future.
“The workforce we inherited in 2015 was one seriously demoralised by decade-long unpaid salaries and allowances; a restive workforce with simmering agitations and perennial threats of strike. It was a workforce challenged down by private sector retrenchments and varying unfair labour practices,” he said.
Ngige stated that the federal government did not only clear arrears of workers’ salaries and allowances in a record time, but “the President out of compassion, granted a bailout fund to the states to enable them to clear theirs, and further gave an express directive that no worker serving in the federal civil or public service should be retrenched in the foreboding economic down turn that resulted in recession notwithstanding.
“Having restored stability to the federal civil and public service, we moved decisively into the private sector and defused raging gale of retrenchment in the oil and gas, construction and the financial sectors of the economy through a ventilated social dialogue that saved millions of jobs that were already put on the line.
Notwithstanding teething problems, the current administration initiated, consummated and implemented in record time, the New National Minimum Wage and its consequential adjustment and set up a five-man Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages with prospects of a general wage review and a pivotal focus on re-evaluation of service to synchronise work and earnings with productivity as denominator.”
He challenged workers on honest and diligent service while exhorting Nigerians on the virtues of love and unity as a key to building a strong and prosperous nation.
The organised labour in its New Year message, expressed its resolve to mobilise its members to ensure that states that did not meet its December 31 deadline are made to do so without delay.
The labour movement also expressed concern about the handling of the economy, particularly its rising debt profile, which it described as a major concern both locally and internationally.
On the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage by states, the labour movement, in its New Year message by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President, Ayuba Wabba, said it would vigorously fight for the nationwide implementation of the new wage and consequential adjustment.
While commending the states that have started paying the new wage and consequential adjustment, the labour leader urged others to follow suit, saying the new national minimum wage is a law and governors do not have the luxury to choose whether to pay or not.
“We use this medium to implore states that are yet to implement the new national minimum wage, including the states that are yet to begin negotiation with labour on the consequential wage adjustment, to speedily do the needful. In tandem with our position as adopted and communicated after a stakeholders’ meeting on December 11, 2019, organised labour in Nigeria will not guarantee industrial harmony in states that fail to implement the new national minimum wage by December 31, 2019.
“We direct our state councils to be on the standby to robustly engage state governments that fail to obey our laws. We wish to remind state governors that no excuse would be good enough for failure to pay,” Wabba had said.
On its part, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) urged governors yet to pay to do so without delay.
“Inasmuch as we would not want to disrupt economic activities, we would still not compromise the welfare of our members. A stitch in time saves nine,” it said.