BY MUYIWA OYINLOLA
Annually, workers around the world celebrate the Workers Day on May 1st. The day is set aside to honour the struggles and gains made by workers and labourers. In Nigeria, this year’s May Day celebration comes with mixed feeling for workers.
Although it is a day for celebration, for many of the workers, it is not Uhuru yet, as the struggle for an improved livelihood has not gotten any better since then. Several states are still struggling to pay the National minimum wage of N30,000 over two years after it was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
This year’s celebration was marked amidst various contending issues such as; nonpayment of salaries and pension, insecurity, unilateral sack of workers, hike in cost of living and other issues that has to do with dearth in good governance and workers welfare. Labour has consistently been at loggerheads with government over this. The Parliamentary Staff Union of Nigeria, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) are all on strike over poor welfare.
“There has never been anything that Labour got on a platter of gold since the history of the labour movement in Nigeria,” NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said. For the Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), The major challenge for workers is the insecurity.
NUEE general secretary, comrade Joe Ajaero says, “The safety of our Workers who carry out the maintenance works and man the stations in these restive areas are seriously threatened, as some run into dens of bandits and kidnappers while navigating the bushes to repair and maintain faulty Lines.
“Should this alarming rate of insecurity continue in the next few weeks with the devastating effect on our members, we may not have any other option than to withdraw our members from further exposure to security threats, which has taken many lives already.”
Amidst concern that the minimum wage will be removed from the Exclusive list to the Concurrent list, Minster of labour and Employment, Chris Ngige used this year’s May Day to reassure workers that such will not happen. He indicated, “That law is a national law, it’s not that which you can choose for anybody that falls within the ambit of that law.
It is not a question of pick and choose. We moved the national minimum wage from N18,000 per month to N30,000, it is an irreducible clause and we need a social protection mechanism. “We therefore expect the states and people in the private sector to comply.
Amendment of trying to expand that law or trying to bring the law into the concurrent list of the institution will not work.” Nigerian workers should not give up. Indeed, as the popular slogan goes, “A luta continua; vitória é certa”.