Nigerian workers discuss their pitiable state on a daily basis, and conclude that Government is not ready to make life bearable for them. In this interview with Federationews2day, the immediate past Chairman of the Trade Union Congress(TUC)Oyo state council, who is also an ex-official of the TUC, the state Chairman of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria(ASCN)Oyo state chapter and South west coordinator of the Socialist Workers league, Comrade Andrew Emelieze, says government is insensitive to the plight of Nigerian workers.
How have your members fared under the economic recession ?
As regards the issue of the recession, in the first place, those who claim to have announced that Nigeria is in recession are the same people who put the country in recession, the ruling class, they are the same people that have now come out to say that Nigeria is out of recession.
We might to some extent agree with them, looking at the increase in the price of crude oil in the international market, and the rise in the GDP, we might want to say that, technically, Nigeria is out of recession. The question we will now ask thereafter, is how will it impact on the people of Nigeria, especially the workers and the senior civil servants, which I represent.
It is too early to judge, but then, looking at the history of Government and governance in Nigeria, especially this government, which we all know that it is a multi government, they talk so much, even based on so many things that they cannot achieve, one might begin to also think that it might still be the same old story and that Nigerians might not feel any impact. On the issue of recession, especially now that the ruling class has started the struggle for 2019 elections and so one might not eventually, get anything that will benefit the Nigerian working class, on the issue of Nigeria getting out of recession. Also, looking at the struggle for the minimum wage, now that the Government says we are out of recession, one will also expect the Nigerian Government to say that there is hope for a new national minimum wage. The workers have endured for over two years in very harsh conditions. And the Government has been able to manoeuvre us within this period and they have not been able to achieve a new minimum wage for workers.
Now that we are out of recession and they have announce it, we should expect them to also announce that, even without negotiating with the labour movement, that Government should be able to pay a particular amount of money as new minimum wage, then let labour come out to say that Government has announced is too small. In fact our earlier position was that the new national min mum wage should be anchored on the President’s salary. And what we are saying here, is that if equity and justice must prevail i Nigeria, whatever our President is earning as the Chief Executive of the country, he should be able to give part of it as minimum wage and what is it we are demanding, at our own local level here, we have been able to do our arithmetic and we have said that the President should graciously give the Nigerian working class one per cent of his own salary, we are not talking about allowances. Just one per cent of his own salary as new national minimum wage. And if he is able to do that, I think everything is anchored around him, then now begin to believe that the President has a sense of justice. Besides, coming out of recession, we also expect that government, will fulfill its promise to pay workers all it owes them at the local, state and federal levels. Before now, at the federal level, lots of allowances are been owed workers, especially promotion allowances, transfer allowances and Basic Travel Allowances. It should be noted that there have been attempts by the labour movement especially our association, Association of Senior Civil Servants to put pressure on government to see how it can pay this money. What we’ve been hearing is that they’ve released so, so and so amount of money, N20 billion, N40 billion, they are compiling, they are yet to pay and people are just too tired of hearing these excuses. Money that they have been owing for the past 7, 8, 9, 10 years. And with this government coming on board, they promised that they will pay these allowances, two years after, they have not paid these allowances owed federal workers. In fact, if you look at the allowances owed federal workers, the money owed them is even more than what states which have not been able to pay salaries to their workers in the past 7 to 8 months owed them. Those in a particular level are not receiving salaries for that level. Tkae for instance, someone in grade level 12 is still receiving salary of someone in grade level 9. And that is the predicament we find ourselves. If you go the Federal secretariat, all over the federation, you see workers who are not happy, they are confused, in fact, even their condition of service is such that most times, they lament and regret that they took up jobs to work for their country. Apart from the fact that the pay is too poor, N18,000 minimum wage, all the allowances owed them has not been paid. they are no longer motivated to work. If you go to most offices now at the federal level, it is zero allocation. Money is not coming from Abuja. They don’t have money to operate. The various Directors are just in the offices, almost made redundant by the Federal Government. Probably the money has been budgeted for, but it is not leaving Abuja. It is our strong belief that now that they have announced the end of recession, they should explore way through which the state Governors can have enough funds to clear the arrears of workers’ salaries, gratuities of pensioners, including the issue of social security for the unemployed. Unfortunately, nothing is been done in this regard, based on what we’ve bee hearing at the Federal level and even from the Governors.