Posted by Regina Otokpa Abuja | 2 May 2018 | 1,071 times
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has assured Nigerian workers that their worst days were over as the present administration was working towards improving the welfare package of workers and pensioners in the country.
This was even as he said the corruption and mismanagement of resources by state governors were reasons behind the non-payment of salaries and pensions in defaulting states.
Osinbajo made this known yesterday in Abuja while addressing workers at the 2018 May Day Celebration with the theme, ‘Role of Labour Movement in National Development: Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win’.
He maintained that it was Buhari’s concern for workers’ welfare that gave rise to mechanisms to the bailout given to the 36 states of the federation to the tune of N1.91 trillion.
“The government recognises the fact that, indeed, the first line real victims of corruption are the Nigerian workers and working families, along with the rural poor.
“It is regrettable that despite the enormous revenues Nigeria earned from oil in recent past, we still have problems with payment of salaries and pensions of workers due to mismanagement and corruption.
“I assure you that under our administration, we will ensure that we expend every kobo of public funds towards securing the welfare of all Nigerians. We have continued to demonstrate our commitment to the welfare of Nigerians by ensuring that we protect the socially excluded and socially vulnerable,” he said.
The Vice President noted that the recognition of the high cost of living in the country and the right of workers to a fair and decent wage, were reasons behind the inauguration of a Tripartite Committee, to renegotiate the minimum take-home pay of workers.
He called on the tripartite committee to expedite actions to enable quick presentation of an Executive Bill on a new National Minimum Wage to the National Assembly for passage into law, as soon as possible.
“While we do recognise that payment of salaries and pensions is essential; we are also conscious of the fact that the increasing cost of living and the recognition to ensure a fair and decent living wage has rendered the Minimum Wage Instrument obsolete.
“Accordingly, President Buhari inaugurated, on November 27, 2017, a Tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee to renegotiate the National Minimum Wage for our workers. Although there are arguments regarding fixing minimum wage in a federation such as ours, it is the responsibility of government to establish the necessary social protection floor for all Nigerian workers based on the ability of each tier of government to pay.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, has given workers technical support in exploring the use of strikes in achieving their goals and aspirations targeted at the good of Nigerian workers.
“In acclamation of these achievements and in anticipation of future progress, I use this occasion of May Day to encourage workers to always imbibe the culture of communication and uphold the principle of the use of strike as a last resort in the pursuit of socioeconomic goals and aspirations.
“I promise you that our doors will always be open to engaging your leadership towards a consensual end in all relevant matters of interest to you all,” he said.
Ngige further called on workers to assist the government in its anti-corruption crusade saying; “corruption, as we know, is a cankerworm that has eaten into the fabric of our national conscience and an obstacle to our sustainable development and growth.
“However, it is a surmountable obstacle that requires patriotic approach and remedy from each one of us. Labour should also, at this time, help to bake the national cake,” he added.
President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, warned that workers would vote against any state governor who frustrates the implementation of N66,500 as the new National Minimum Wage.
While calling on the Federal Government to withhold allocations to states who refuse to conform to the new wage, he emphasised organised labour’s resolve to contend with public and private organisations, who would refuse to do same.
“The recent nationwide minimum wage public hearings have unmasked the enemies of Nigerian workers. We insist that once the Minimum Wage Act is signed into law, all employers in public and private sectors must pay at once. We shall stand with those willing to pay more than the minimum. We shall resist any move to renegotiate the minimum wage at any level.
“The Federal Government must ensure that federal allocations are not released to states and local governments that refuse to implement the new minimum wage. We are battle ready against public and private organisations that would refuse to conform to the new minimum wage. At our disposal is the power of our votes! We shall ensure that governments that refuse to pay the new minimum wage will not receive the support of the working class, pensioners and their families,” Wabba warned.
Wabba added: “As the benefits of a new minimum wage cannot be overemphasized, an increase in the minimum wage will pull many workers out of poverty.
“A new minimum wage will put the country in positive light globally as it would ensure compliance with the International Labour Organisation standards.
“Overall, an increase in the minimum wage will raise the levels of productivity and enhance the purchasing power of Nigerian workers.
“Our current demand of N66, 500 as the national minimum wage will only manage to meet the basic needs of the average Nigerian worker if inflation is kept at a single digit.”
On the forthcoming 2019 elections, he appealed to politicians to avoid overheating the polity and play the games by the rules by avoiding inflammatory comments, handle differences with decorum and restrain their supporters from resorting to self- help and violence.
On his part, the President Trade Union Congress, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, demanded for an immediate probe of state governments still owing workers’ salaries and pensions arrears.
Kaigama, who disclosed that many states still owe workers’ salaries and pensions arrears between five and 10 months, said that refusal to pay workers’ entitlements was a form of terrorism against workers.
“The use to which bailout funds have been put is a growing concern to us. We demand immediate probe for state governments that are known to have diverted the funds while culprits should be made to face the full weight of the law.
“We have identified the states that owe salaries and pensions, and serious mobilization is ongoing to vote out such governors in the next election in their states,” he said. (New Telegraph)
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