Workers deserve better conditions of service

As Nigerian workers join their counterparts from all over the world to mark today’s occasion,we must salute their doggedness and the tremendous contributions they have made to the development of our country. Since the day is usually observed with parades, rallies, and speeches that demand better conditions of service, and fair wages for all cadres of workers, we are delighted that common sense eventually prevailed over the use of Eagle Square for today’s ceremony in Abuja.

 On a day such as this, the recent approval of a 40 per cent “peculiar allowance” to some federal civil servants comes to mind. Only the 144,766 federal civil servants under the Consolidated Public Service Salary Structure will benefit from the increase while other federal workers operating under different salary structures will not. The federal government must quickly address the concerns of those institutions that feel discriminated against in the implementation of this policy. More importantly, in a nation where the remunerations of political office holders are scandalously high, it is unconscionable that the wages of workers, hardly ever paid on time, are rather low.

 However, there are many conversations we need to have regarding work and the reward system in our country. For instance, it is important for the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to inculcate in their members the culture of productive work. As things stand in Nigeria today, our civil service is a social welfare programme with declining productivity from members. In Abuja and the 36 states, many workers have turned their offices into trading posts, littered with all sorts of merchandise. Besides, many workers spend their day watching television. Also, there are thousands of public servants who are near their graves but have remained in office through repeated fraudulent age declarations. These are some of the issues that need to be dealt with to improve on the productivity of workers in both the public and private sectors.

 Meanwhile, one major attraction in public service, despite its poor remuneration package, is the benefit of receiving pension after retirement. But over the years, such prospect has become problematic and uncertain in Nigeria. And this has worsened the woes of retired civil servants. The failure of government to meet the pension expectation of retirees ends up shattering the plans of many as well as inducing economic trauma, which in some cases have led to fatalities. Indeed, many senior citizens who had no other source of earning a living after service had collapsed and died while on queues waiting for their pensions.

It was in a bid to move beyond this tragic situation that the Pension Reforms Act of 2004 was enacted. It was, as the name suggests, designed to address the failures of the old scheme—the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS). In its place, the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) was introduced wherein both the government and the workers themselves are to save up a given amount of their earnings towards building up an accumulated funds reserve which the worker can fall back on after retirement. Unfortunately, the plight of pensioners remains in a country where there is no safety net for the poor.

While we urge the federal and state governments to keep faith with their obligations to pensioners, we also call on the pension sector regulator, PenCom, to apply stricter measures in enforcing compliance with the provisions of the Pension Reforms Act by the PFAs. It is only fair and just to allow pension to sooth the nerves of retired persons, especially after the workers have been faithful in making appropriate contributions to the scheme while in active service.

 We wish all Nigerian workers happy May Day.

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