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May Day: Agonies and well-being of Nigerian workers

The common adage “without labour nothing prospers” cannot be diminished because a nation’s pursuit of prosperity will remain a chimera without the contributions of workers.…

The common adage “without labour nothing prospers” cannot be diminished because a nation’s pursuit of prosperity will remain a chimera without the contributions of workers. Put differently, workers everywhere are the ones who fire the engine of the economy; they are the implementers of government policies and executors of private sector mission. Owing to these peerless roles, May 1 of each year is dedicated to celebrate the contributions of  workers across the globe.

However, beyond the commemoration of workers’ day every year, regard for dignity of labour and remuneration of workers in most private and public sectors are treated with less seriousness in Nigeria. This is evident where government does not address workers’ genuine agitations in time until they embark on strikes and agreements reached are not honoured.

The ongoing ASUU, SSANU and NASU strikes among many others are examples.

Similarly, in the private sector, workers’ condition is not better; in many private establishments, where employers of labour act like demi-gods, they use the precarious high rate of unemployment in the country to abuse dignity of labour through poor remuneration, too much workloads, casualisation, among other anti-workers policies.

It is callous how some private and even public organisations give little attention to workers’ safety through non-provision of protective working tools and where an employee sustains an injury while on duty, proper medical care and commensurate compensation are not given to him.

It is pertinent for all employers of labour to always note that our country cannot develop beyond the well-being, self-confidence and commitment of its workforce.

Thus, employers-workers’ relationship must be enhanced where both parties must accord regard to each other and see themselves as “partners in progress” for sustainable industrial harmony. Workers, through their unions, must also be realistic in their demands even as government must be sincere in its labour-related policies and terms during negotiations. A situation where government (as in some states) slashes workers’ salaries on the basis of FAAC ‘shortfalls’ without their consent while its political appointees are paid full remuneration is at variance with “emotional intelligence”, fuels corruption in the public sector and dips workers’ spirit.

Additionally, more pro-workers’ legislation should be passed and fully enforced to serve as protective buffers.

The Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Public Complaints Commission, labour unions and other relevant bodies must step up, beam adequate light on many private organisations and sanction those that engage in anti-labour actions such as non-contribution of pensions, non-payment of overtime allowance, non-compensation and lack of Medicare for staff who sustain accidents during official work among others. Again, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) should impress on its members to respect their workers, encourage good remuneration as motivation for optimum productivity while  dealing decisively with any of its erring members.


Muhammad Danjuma Abubakar, wrote from Minna