MINIMUM WAGE: LET THERE BE GOOD FAITH

Filed in News by on July 25, 2011

Minimum Wage: Let there be good faith
Monday, July 25, 2011

The suspension of the three-day warning strike called by labour to protest government’s refusal to implement the National Minimum Wage Act is a welcome relief. The resolution of the protracted crisis following the agreement of both the Federal and State governments to implement the new wage structure saved Nigerians another needless and wasteful confrontation with the authorities. The new wages will now be paid from August 1, 2011 to all workers from Levels 1 to 16. Arrears will also be paid from March.

We are happy that both labour and the government heeded our advice in a recent editorial and allowed reason to prevail on this matter. The lesson from this welcome development is that there is no problem that cannot be solved through dialogue if all parties choose to toe the path of reason.

The only regret in this matter is that government waited for so long, and until it was arm-twisted via threat of a national strike before agreeing to implement an Act that was passed into law by the National Assembly and assented to by the President since March. The message this has communicated to the people is that government only understands the language of coercion and has to be forced to do what is right.
Now that the two tiers of government have agreed to pay the new wages from August 1, we urge them to do everything to ensure that they are faithful to that agreement. August is only few days away, so adequate measures should be taken now to ensure that there would be no excuses to explain failure to pay the new salaries at that time.

The ball is now in the court of the government to demonstrate good faith on this issue, so that the problem can be rested. Nigeria, with the many problems in the polity now, cannot afford the kind of tension that attended the minimum wage debacle. It is a situation that could have been avoided if government had implemented the law without waiting for labour to force its hands.

With the disagreement over new wages hopefully now over, we advise labour to encourage workers to improve their productivity to justify the higher wages. Workers should put their best into their work, even when the environment is not encouraging. We cannot grow the economy without workers doing what they are supposed to. Let there be measurable improved productivity. On the part of government, we expect the authorities to remain true to the August 1 date without introducing any conditions such as removal of fuel subsidy or increase in the revenue allocated to states. In this regard, we find disturbing, the remarks of the Governor of Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, which alluded to such conditionalities. Excuses such as the ones being put up by the governor will only torpedo the agreement willingly entered into by all the parties to the dispute. That will be most unfortunate.

The government should also learn to tackle problems before they escalate. It should not give the impression that it only understands the language of violence and strikes.
Nigerians expect government to be proactive and rational. It should not wait to be pushed to the wall before it does the right thing because this does not help its credibility.
To finally rest this matter, Nigerians need honesty, sincerity and integrity from both labour and government. Let the resolve be made now that the issue of strike will not arise again on this matter. There is no need to allow the economy to suffer on account of an avoidable strike. This is the time to grow the economy and not trouble it.

To ensure that the new wages can be paid without too much stress, let government scale down the cost of governance, including the unnecessarily high remuneration of certain categories of political office holders. There is no justification for payment of millions of naira to some political office holders monthly, while some workers cannot even afford transportation to their offices.

We urge government to tighten spending through imaginative measures to free funds for payment of the new package. The national interest should be uppermost in the minds of both workers and the government on the issue of the new National Minimum Wage.

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