Organised labour under the auspices of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Wednesday condemned the moves by the federal government to review payrolls as part of measures to reduce the cost of governance.
It expressed concerns that the planned review, listed on Tuesday by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, as part of a directive by President Muhammed Buhari to cut costs in view of dwindling revenue may lead to slashing workers’ salaries.
The NLC President, Dr. Ayuba Wabba, said in a statement yesterday that it would be absurd for the federal government to be thinking of a salary slash.
He said instead of contemplating a reduction in salaries, the government, as a social partner should respond to the demands by labour for an upward review of salaries.
He stated: “It was with huge shock that we read the statement credited to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who said that the federal government was working to reduce the high cost of governance by cutting down on the salaries of Nigerian workers.”
NLC described the call for salary slash as a ‘mass suicide’ wish for Nigerian workers.
It demanded an immediate retraction and apology from the minister.
The NLC called on Buhari to “call the Minister of Finance to order now before she sets Nigeria on fire with her careless statements.”
It added that if any salary should be slashed, it was the humungous remuneration and allowances pocketed by political office holders.
NLC said it would be most unthinkable that the government would be contemplating to unilaterally slash the salaries of workers at this time.
“The question to ask is ‘which salary is the government planning to slash? It certainly cannot be the meagre national minimum wage of N30,000, which right now cannot even buy a bag of rice! The proposed slash in salaries is certainly not targeted at the minimum wage and consequential adjustment in salaries that some callous state governors are still dragging their feet to pay,” it added.
NLC said it was public knowledge that the multiple devaluation of the naira in a short time and the prevailing high inflation rate in Nigeria had eroded the value of workers’ incomes.
According to the NLC, workers are only surviving by hair’s breadth.
It said: “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 a salary slash for Nigerian workers at this time.
“We do not constitute any unnecessary cost or burden to governance! It is also important to make the point that salaries are products of contracts governed by laws. They cannot be unilaterally adjusted.
“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 ILO Conventions and Declarations on Wages and Decent Work.
“We urge government as a social partner to quickly respond to the demands by labour for an upward review of salaries of all Nigerian workers. Nigerian workers have shown sufficient understanding with the government through the tough patches of the pandemic. Now, Nigerian workers demand reciprocity of our understanding. Nigerian workers demand an increase in their remunerations and allowances. Enough is enough.”
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja