As workers prepare for a show down with state governors over the non payment of salaries, frontline Labour leader and Vice President of IndustriALL Global Union, Comrade Isa Aremu has reminded state governors in the country that Nigerian workers were not slaves and should not be treated as such.
Are I told The Nation exclusively in Abuja that the condition Nigerian workers were being subjected to by some state Governors can be liken to that of modern slavery, pointing out that the Governors should realize that for any economy to develop, workers must be paid as and when due.
He said it was an irony that President Muhammadu Buhari had to constantly remind the Governors of the need to pay their workers, pointing out that the excuse being advanced by the Governors for owing several months of salaries and pensions was not acceptable because payment of salaries was a right of the worker.
Aremu who is the General Secretary of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria and a member of the National Executive Council of the NLC said: “It is bad enough that the President had to remind the Governors to pay their workers as and when due whether there is Paris club refund or not. But it is worse that we are debating the need to pay the workforce. Payment of workers salaries is a fundamental right sanctioned by the ILO and reinforced by our Labour laws.
“The difference between slaves and workers is that slaves are not paid, while workers are paid as and when due. We are not running a slave kingdom, but a federal republic based on the 1999 constitution that recognizes the need to pay workers as and when due, emphasizing the dignity of Labour.
“I think that defaulting Governors should learn from their colleagues that are paying. Whether with Paris club or not. Some Governors have been paying their workers as and when due.
“Recently, the World Bank released statistics about states that are doing well in terms of businesses and they all include states that are paying their workers as and when due. Payment of workers salaries is good economics and is good for economic recovery.
“In any case, what do workers do with their salaries? They buy basic goods, pay rent, buy food, pay the school fees of their children. So, it is also good to run the economy well by paying. If you don’t pay, you are also under developing your state.
“Above all, it is a fundamental right which is not negotiable and should not be tied to whether they release Paris club refund or not. None of these Governors will tell you that their salaries are tied to Paris club refund.
“Every worker, right from the President, to the Governors to the cleaner is entitled to his pay. We have to find a way to let them understand the challenge of governance with respect to the payment of the workforce.
“The greatest factor of production is Labour. You may have all the other factors, but if the Labour is not well motivated, it will never work. So, the key to productivity and recovery of Nigeria is a highly motivated and paid workforce.. it is after that, you can demand for discipline and more productivity. If you don’t do so, you don’t have the moral authority to demand productivity.
“Our governors should also know that they not just employers of Labour. They are government to enforce Nigeria Labour laws. They are supposed to make sure that private employers pay as and when due and if they don’t pay, they should sanction the, based on the law.
“He who demand for equity must come with clean hand. So, if you are also not paying, what is the ,oral authority? I think they should know that they have dual role to pay salaries as and when due and above all, enforce Nigeria Labour laws.
“I want to commend the President because he has been very strong on the need to pay workers as and when due. Remember that he asked the governor recently how they sleep when they don’t pay workers.
“Now he has told them he was releasing the Paris club refund for them to pay workers before Christmas without any excuse. Now they are saying until the money is paid and that they have other projects. Any project that goes beyond human resource is a failed project.
“Human beings are not just the means, they are end of development. You are going to do good road, that is fine, but it has to be for good workers. If the citizens are not well fed, they cannot even use the road and so, they have to get it right.
“Then this argument of recurrent and capital expenditure is also not tenable. Modern economists define human being as capital and that is why they talk about human capital. You can’t define human being as what you use to buy stationaries because the best investment is human resource and this economy cannot recover with miserably paid workforce.
“First, the existing wages are so low and can hardly take workers home and then, you don’t even pay them on time, in luring pensions. I think good Governors should be championing the cause for increase in pay for fast economic recovery.”