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BETTER DEAL FOR WORKERS

By NBF News
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Workers all over the world yesterday celebrated Workers' Day. In Nigeria, thousands of workers joined their colleagues in other climes to commemorate this event, also tagged May Day.

Workers' Day is part of the revolutionary legacies of Marxist teachings that were well enunciated in Russia. It is worthy to celebrate workers because the creators and generators of societal wealth should be recognized and appreciated. In other words, workers should have their rightful dues.

The occasion is also a time to remember that workers are crucial to the maintenance and survival of the society. In places where workers are treated with dignity, the event is marked with pomp and ceremony. But in other climes where workers are in perpetual bondage, the occasion should be used to address their slavish working conditions.

It is sad that in many countries, workers still carry out their legitimate duties under inhuman conditions like irregular working hours and unhealthy work environment. Many receive exploitative wages. Despite the globally agreed eight hours that constitute a workday, many workers the world over work above this universal ceiling. Many of them are multi-tasked, made to perform tasks that are outside their job description and scope.

In addition, they are short-changed in terms of remuneration and other work benefits. In Africa and Nigeria in particular, the situation is not cheering. Many workers work in unfriendly environment and receive mere pittance as wages. This is worse in private organizations than government establishments.

Workers in government employment in Nigeria have for long been engaging the government over the new N52,000 minimum wage demand. Hopes for approval of this sum appear dim. Regrettably, what many Nigerian workers take home as salaries every month cannot sustain them. Many of these workers have of necessity devised other ingenious ways to make ends meet in an economy that suffers galloping inflation. This is at a great cost to their jobs.

While the political class and those that work in oil companies and financial institutions earn enhanced wages, their colleagues in government establishments and the smaller private companies receive slavish wages.

More pitiable is the wage situation in some private schools and private health facilities in Nigeria. In these organizations, workers are subjected to the worst type of degradation of labour. Professionals employed in some of these institutions have been consigned to perpetual poverty because of the poor salaries they earn. Such wages do not reflect their professional status and the amount of work they do.

Many Nigerian workers go through such plight in silence because their indignity is never captured by the media and they do not belong to organized labour unions like the Nigerian Labour Congress.

Most of these workers are not part of the newly introduced compulsory contributory pension scheme. They are not allowed to run any type of trade unionism in their work place.

Many workers in factories, especially those owned by Asians, are employed as casual workers. They do not have any form of insurance cover in case of work-related accidents. Besides this, they are inhumanly treated even in their own country by expatriate employers. Those injured in the course of duty are never compensated. Workers suffer these indignities because jobs are not easy to come by in the country. Employment generation, a key component of the 7 - point Agenda of the government, is not being pursued with much vigour.

As workers mark this year's Workers' Day, we call on the government to come out with national working conditions guidelines for all workers in the country, including those in private establishments. Government should look into the wage structure and conditions of service in the private sector where Nigerians are daily subjected to untold exploitation. The wage structure should be reviewed to bridge the gap between the lowest and highest paid workers. There is the need to redistribute the nation's wealth so that those who work will be well remunerated.

Good enough, this year's celebration coincided with workers' demand for a wage review. We need a society where there is equity and fair treatment for all, including the workers. Let workers of all countries unite to ensure that they are well treated. We call on all workers to use the opportunity provided by the May Day celebration to redouble their effort to contribute to the good of the society.