Slashing workers’ salaries will be suicidal, Labour warns FG

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Nigerian workers have kicked against a move by the Federal government to cut their salaries, as well as reduce the number of Federal agencies.

They registered their opposition yon Wednesday through the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in a reaction to comments by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who hinted on the possibility of reducing the workforce.

At a “national policy dialogue on corruption and cost of governance in Nigeria” on Tuesday, the minister had spoken of plans by the government to reduce the high cost of governance by cutting the salaries of civil servants and trimming Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

The session was organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in Abuja.

She directed the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) to immediately review the salaries of civil servants as well as the number of federal agencies in the country.

But, in a statement by its President, Ayuba Wabba, the NLC said it was most unthinkable that government would be contemplating to unilaterally slash the salaries of Nigerian workers at this time.

Labour argued that multiple devaluation of the Naira in a very short time and the prevailing high inflation rate in Nigeria had knocked out the salaries earned by Nigerian workers across board.

He said: “The question to ask is which salary is 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 is public knowledge that the multiple devaluation of the Naira in a very short time and the prevailing high inflation rate in Nigeria has knocked out the salaries earned by Nigerian workers across board.

“Nigerian workers are only surviving by hair’s breadth. 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 salary slash for Nigerian workers at this time.”

According to the NLC, the call for salary slash by the minister is tantamount to a “mass suicide wish for Nigerian workers”.

Wabba added: “It is most uncharitable, most insensitive, most dehumanising and most barbaric. Nigerian workers demand an immediate retraction and apology by the minister of Finance.

“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the minister of Finance to order now before she sets Nigeria on fire with her careless statements. If there is any salary that needs serious slashing it is the humungous remuneration and allowances pocketed by political office holders in Nigeria who do very little but collect so much!

“Workers generate surplus value and revenue for government. 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 showed sufficient understanding with 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.”

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