Don’t Push Workers To The Wall, N18,000 Minimum Wage Is No Longer Sustainable, Hon Akpatason Tells FG
The House Committee Chairman on Civil Society Organisations Hon. Peter Akpatason has told the Federal Government not to push Nigerian workers to the brink of another nationwide strike that could cripple the Nigerian economy considering the recent gains we have made after the longest recession in the nation’s history.
Speaking exclusively with our reporter the Edo state born former labour leader explained why the government needs to act proactively rather than reactively to issues such as this especially as it concerns the plight of Nigerian workers.
According to him, “There are signals that the workers are preparing for a massive strike and as a government there is the need to stem the tide of incessant strike actions in the country to avoid the economic consequences that follow such strike actions particularly now that the nation is experiencing serious economic hardship.”
He further stated that, “I have come to realize that most of the strike actions that happen in recent times were as a result of either delay in the implementation of agreement or delay in going into the agreement to resolve issues, and that appears to be what is being played out with the minimum wage review which labour has come to the conclusion that they would take action over it which include strike action, so I think that government should give it a thought and make good their agreement with the workers by setting up a committee to review the minimum wage.”
You will all agree with me that the current minimum wage figures are abysmally too low given the inflationary trends in the economy you will discover that what most workers at that level receive can hardly take care of their basic needs and that is not helping the security situation in the country and neither is it helping in the fight against corruption too.”
The former labour activist himself who still acknowledges the labour family as one of his major constituencies recognised the fact that successive governments have always used labour as a tool for political rhetoric during electioneering campaigns where several promises are made but in the end status quo is maintained, however he insists that the ideal situation will be for the executive arm to respect the legislature and as such take this matter seriously since they are both partners in governance.
“Whatever proceeds from this arm of government ought to be respected by other arms of government including Mr. President because we are doing this to help the process work better and avoid imminent crisis.”
It will however be recalled that the labour family in recent times have not been speaking in one accord which brings to fore the question of their unity on this particular issue. With the breaking away of a major group led by factional leader Comrade Joe Ajaero leading the United Labour Congress (ULC) from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) led by Comrade Ayuba Waba, it appears that having the workers agree on the composition of the representation in the proposed review committee being requested with the government might become another huge issue. However, Hon. Peter Akpatason seem to differ on this as he insists that such attempts in the past have usually worked in the interest of the workers.
“I am not an advocate of division as I have always believed in unity because unity helps in progress, it helps in the achievement of organisational goals, however because organisations are populated by people with different interests and objectives, people react to situations in different ways and one of the ways people react to election outcomes unfortunately is the kind of thing we are seeing in the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), but I can tell you that whatever is happening now is a passing phase and so with the right action and steps taken the situation will be under control very soon.”
Again there is really no cause for alarm despite the ULC emerging from the NLC because the situation can be properly managed. Remember that I was around when the issue of Trade Union Congress (TUC) came up and the government quickly supported the emergence of the new group with the intention to balance labour but it tuned out to become a positive in the end, and so whether there are four or five labour centres the unions will still work in the interest of workers and not government because their goal will be to protect the interest of workers, like you see how TUC and NLC have had very symbiotic relationship over the years and those who supported the emergence of TUC thinking it would weaken labour now realise that it has even further strengthened the labour movement.”
Reacting to the new proposed plan by the government to implement a ‘No Work, No Pay’ policy against striking workers, the Hon. representing Akoko-edo Federal Constituency of Edo state said that such plans would be counter productive as it will only end up exercerbating an already tensed situation.
According to him, “Most employers avoid no work no pay, governments have also avoided it and even the most brutal regimes have also avoided it in the past when they realised that it would be counter productive they back out, so this government will be making a mistake if they do that,” he said.
What I have always warned people when it comes to industrial relations is to avoid ambushing, and so any decision and any action that would lead to ambush action must always be avoided. If workers go on strike for genuine reasons, what I expect employers to do is to quickly resolve the issues and move on but if you decide to look back and punish the workers for what they did then be ready for more trouble because there are a lot of issues that union people overlook and so by the time you punish them for embarking on a legitimate strike action they will dig out those pending issues and they would hammer back in a more vicious manner and the cycle will continue where the government and workers keep ambushing each other. So no work no pay is never the way to go in resolving labour related matters, it is the responsibility of government to engage in persuasive arguments to reach a logical conclusion on whatever the issues may be.”
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