The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has warned against the reported plan by the Federal Government to cut the salaries of workers, saying any attempt to tamper with the minmum wage would amount to wishing a “mass suicide” for Nigerian workers.
Last Tuesday, at the policy dialogue on corruption and cost of governance in Nigeria organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission in Abuja, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, was quoted to have confirmed the salary cut plan.
The minister was reported to have said that President Muhammadu Buhari directed the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission to review the salaries of civil servants as well as the number of federal agencies in the country.
The plan, apparently, is part of efforts by the government to shore up its declining revenue and strengthen the economy blighted by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
But in its reaction on Wednesday in Abuja, the central labour group expressed “huge shock” at the government’s plan as one of the ways to reduce the high cost of governance in the country.
“It is most unthinkable that the government would be contemplating to unilaterally slash the salaries of Nigerian workers at this time. This call for salary slash by Mrs. Zainab Ahmed is tantamount to a “mass suicide” wish for Nigerian workers.
“It is most uncharitable, most insensitive, most dehumanizing and most barbaric. Nigerian workers demand an immediate retraction and apology by the Minister of Finance,” the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba said in a statement.
Wondering “which salary is the government planning to slash?” the NLC President it certainly could not be the meagre national minimum wage of N30, 000 which right now cannot even buy a bag of rice!
He said the “proposed slash in salaries was certainly not targeted at the minimum wage and consequential adjustment in salaries that some callous State Governors are still dragging their feet to pay!”
Justifying Labour’s decision to oppose the plan, Wabba said it was public knowledge that the multiple devaluation of the Naira within a very
short time and the prevailing high inflation rate in the country has drastically devalued the salaries earned by Nigerian workers across board.
“Nigerian workers are only surviving by hair’s breadth. Indeed, Nigerian workers are miracles strutting on two legs. It is, therefore, extremely horrendous for a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to pronounce salary slash for Nigerian workers at this time.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the Minister of Finance to order now before she sets Nigeria on fire with her careless statements. If there is any salary that needs serious slashing, it is the humungous remuneration and allowances pocketed by political office holders in Nigeria who do very little, but collect so much!”
The workers, he said, generate surplus value and revenue for the government and do not constitute any unnecessary cost or burden to governance in the country.
Besides, he said salaries are products of contracts governed by laws ans cannot be unilaterally adjusted by the government.
“While many countries of the world are increasing the salaries of their
workforce, extending social security coverage for their citizens and
providing all forms of palliatives to help their people through the terrible
socio-economic dislocations occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be completely absurd for the Nigerian government to be thinking of salary slash. This move is not only at great odds with global best responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also in violation of relevant International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions and Declarations on Wages and Decent Work,” the labour leader said.
As a social partner, Wabba urged the government to quickly respond to the demands by Labour for an upward review of salaries of all Nigerian National workers who have showed sufficient understanding in the face of the tough times during the pandemic.
“Now, Nigerian workers demand reciprocity of the understanding through an increase in their remunerations and allowances”, he said.
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