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Wednesday 7 November 2018

Workers’ Strikes: Is NLC only interested in increase in salaries or the purchasing power of salaries?

By Rowland Chukwuemeka Amaefula | For Biafra Writers

November 8, 2018

The imminent strike actions of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, is widely viewed as a great way of advancing the wellbeing of the Nigerian workers with the sum of #30,000 per month as the minimum wage. The prevailing desire of the workers is to, at least, have more money stuffed into their purse. This sounds great. Very great!

The greatness of the strategy and goal is, however, shallow and unable to yield enduring and long-lasting solutions. NLC is about the biggest union in the country which everybody, including the non-working population, looks up to for bringing the government to the path of sanity. But have they lived up to expectations? The answer is No!

In 2015 when President Buhari jacked up fuel price by over 70%, NLC had the golden opportunity to fight for all Nigerians, including the uneducated, unskilled and skilled labour, and even the jobless. But the Union chose to observe a strike in factions. The entire process was politicised and frustrated, even though the consequences of the criminal increase was glaringly painful. Every adult in Nigeria understands that the price of fuel affects virtually all goods and services in the country. Therefore, Buhari's choice to execute the highest fuel price increase in the history of Nigeria was a sure way of spreading hardship, escalating inflation and diminishing the purchasing power of salaries. Did the NLC strive to stop him? No! So why is the union now crying foul over poor payment of salaries? Must they wait for the period of re-negotiating the minimum wage before acting to preserve the worth of incomes?

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When former president Goodluck Jonathan increased the minimum wage by over 100%, he increased the price of fuel almost immediately. So what if Mr. Buhari increases fuel price again after the new minimum wage is achieved?

The big questions are: is NLC really interested in receiving more money, or the purchasing power of salaries? Has NLC bothered about other fellow citizens in Nigeria who are not working for anybody – unemployed people and entrepreneurs? Pray, who will fight for the unemployed? With the soaring incidence of joblessness in Nigeria, worsened by the near absence of industries in the country, and the innumerable graduates churned out of tertiary institutions each year, one is constrained to wonder: what is the place of the fresh graduates in Nigeria? Is there really any plan for them? And then the entrepreneurs, especially the young ones amongst them who engages in petty trading?

With N30,000 monthly wage bill, wouldn’t entrepreneurs massively retrench workers? Would small-scale businesses and entrepreneurs not pack up? Where do we expect a young entrepreneur to generate profits to actualize this new minimum wage? Or is it all about government employees?

It is high time the NLC reviewed its strategies and objectives. The Union should be more concerned with reducing the cost of governance and investing the proceeds in fixing electricity, roads and other basic infrastructure that would naturally have many civil servants to prefer entrepreneurship to Civil Service. That way, the mad rush for federal jobs, and the increasing wage bill of the federal government would be drastically reduced. A better alternative for the Union is to seek the restructuring or fracturing of this lame "giant" of Africa.

Edited By Chukwuemeka Chimerue
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