A cross section of workers in Ebonyi have urged the Federal Government to urgently inaugurate the 29-member committee on National Minimum Wage, so that it could begin negotiations on wage increase for workers.
The workers, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Abakaliki, said that the current N18, 000 minimum wage was no longer feasible in view of the prevailing economic realities.
They, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government to urgently inaugurate the committee comprising labour, the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), representatives of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and the Federal Government.
The respondents stressed that workers could no longer cope with the N18, 000 minimum wage due to the economic hardship occasioned by the economic recession in the country.
Mr Chris Elom, a worker in the Ebonyi Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said that he could no longer afford the basic needs of his family.
According to him, the salary is hardly enough to meet the family needs due to the increase in prices of food items and other essential goods and services, including electricity and petrol bills.
“Workers in Nigeria are facing a very difficult moment because monthly salaries are not enough to cater for family basic needs because inflation has made the value of our naira to worth almost nothing, when compared with other international currencies.
“The N18,000 approved for workers in 2011, is no longer tenable in view of the serious erosion in the value of the naira, hence the need for the Federal Government to kick start negotiations with the organised labour on new minimum wage.
“Better pay package for the worker is critical in checking corruption, laxity, truancy and low productivity in civil and public service, “Elom said.
Another worker, Mrs Veronica Ngele, of the Ebonyi State Ministry of Works and Transport said that Nigerian workers were being socially and economically alienated from the rest of the society.
She said that many families whose breadwinners are civil servants, could not afford children’s school fees while those living as tenants were being daily harassed by landlords due to their inability to pay their house rents.
“The government should restore the pride and dignity that was hitherto associated with being a civil or public servant by paying workers who are contributing so much to the wealth of the nation a living wage.
“The N18, 000 minimum wage can no longer meet both local and international economic realities.
“The social and economic conditions of Nigerian workers is very pitiable and many families collapse daily because breadwinners are not meeting up with their responsibilities, “Ngele said.
Similarly, Mr Charles Njoku of the Federal High Court, Abakaliki, said that the review of the minimum wage was long overdue and appealed to relevant authorities to do the needful.
He said that the monthly salaries paid to workers encouraged stealing and other forms of corrupt practices.
“The demand for living wage and better conditions of service for Nigerian workers by the organised labour is a call made in good faith and which will serve the best interest of all, including the government.
“Wage increase will substantially discourage stealing and other forms of unwholesome practices in public sector employment and at the same time encourage workers to put in their best.
“The Federal Government should do the needful to fast track the process of ensuring the coming into effect of an acceptable new national minimum wage for all levels of workers in the country,” he said.
In his remarks Mr Christopher Offorbuike, a staff of Federal Radio Corporation, Unity FM, Abakaliki, decried the increasing socio-economic inequalities between politicians and other classes of Nigerians.
Offorbuike noted that civil servants were the worst affected by the widening social and economic inequality in Nigeria.
He advised organised labour to remain committed to the agitation for better working condition and enhanced pay package for workers.
“The Nigerian workers deserve the best because they are the people who bake the bread which others eat and in return the workers get very little for their contributions to national development.
“Pay rise for workers is long overdue and the government should know that surviving on N18, 000 minimum wage in a period we are now is not feasible,” Offorbuike said.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government had announced the constitution of a 29-member committee inaugurated to review the current minimum wage which came into effect in 2011.