The fragile economy of the country would be jolted again if no agreement is reached between labour and the government following threat by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to call out its work force for a nationwide strike. Labour had earlier given an ultimatum that by 10th March its workers would strike if the government fails to withdraw the law seeking to transfer minimum wage from the exclusive list to the concurrent list.
The law is seeking to allow the various state governments the opportunity to negotiate with the various labour units in each state according to their capacity. The contention according to Ayuba Wabba, the NLC president is that Nigeria is a signatory to the International Labour Convention 26 of 1960 and therefore improper for the states to implement or negotiate because they are not signatories.
He also contended that the process seeking to enthrone this was not transparent because after the first and second readings it was never passed for public hearing but moved straight to the committee on constitution amendment. He frowned at the clandestine activities of the governors which he described as breach of the fundamental rights of the Nigerian worker.
Wabba noted that the minimum wage is a global standard accusing the political class as the impediments to unity and progress of the nation having declared war against the working class by attacking their core rights.
News Echo sympathizes with Nigerian workers and condemns in its entirety the long drawn negotiation and delays that attend to every demand of labour no matter how small it may be. Labour is the engine room of productivity without which nothing works. Issues affecting it should be accorded priority and treated with dispatch. There is no worker without dependants and no poorly motivated worker would deliver his best. Government has always pleaded inability to pay.
But why is capacity to pay lacking? This can be easily located in the cap in hand practice of shuttling to Abuja to share revenues from oil every month end. Not long ago it was reported that 14 out of the 36 states of the federation cannot survive without the federal allocation. This exposes the non-productive nature of those states.
It further throws up the issue of restructuring to allow the federating units explore the natural endowments within its environ for optimum growth. There is virtually no state that do not have natural resources it can focus on to grow its economy but the over reliance on revenue from oil receipts remain a great impediment.
The issue of poor remuneration has continually flagged sticking out like a sore thumb in our economy. The question is why would labour continually need to kick and growl like wounded lions before it could squeeze any manner of incentive from employers. What about the promises of the politicians to its citizens to improve their welfare whenever they are seeking for political positions.
A further question is why is labour unable to utilize the machinery of its political party to wield itself into one cohesive group and wrestle power from the politicians in order to regularize its welfare issues. It has the capacity and capability to do so but lacks the consciousness. There is no worker that has no dependant that it can influence in the struggle to amass support to win power.
The Nigerian workers deserve a better deal like politicians who are living off big and enjoying humongous emoluments without commensurate efforts. They have also compounded the problems of workers through corrupt practices.