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    Cash crunch: Labour draws battle lines, warns against salary slash

    Organised labour on Wednesday cautioned the Federal Government against reduction of workers’ salaries in its attempt to cut down personnel cost in view of the cash crunch facing the country.

    The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria warned that any attempt to reduce workers’ pay would be suicidal.

    According to them, if government is desirous of reducing its bloated payroll, it should slash the fat remuneration and allowances of political office holders “who do very little but collect so much.’’

    Recall that the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, at the policy dialogue on corruption and cost of governance organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission in Abuja on Tuesday, said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) had directed the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission to review the government payroll.

    Also at the event, the Director-General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze disclosed that the cost of governance under the Buhari regime had risen sharply from N3.61tn in 2015 to N5.26tn in 2018 and N7.91tn in 2020.

    There were reports on Wednesday (not by The PUNCH) that the review planned by government would lead to slashing of workers’ salaries.

    But the minister’s Special Adviser on Media and Communications, Yunusa Abdullahi, in an interview with The PUNCH explained that the review would not lead to salary reduction.

    He said government was working at ensuring pay parity among staff under its employ in various agencies.

    Abdullahi, said, “Government is not thinking of cutting wages, rather salary harmonisation. There are some government agencies who pay much higher than other agencies for staff at the same grade level. So if you like, it’s more of a pay parity.

    “What government hopes to achieve is to redistribute wages equally across board. So, the (finance) minister’s thesis and mandate of the President is: ‘let’s bring our salary structure within government agencies as close or as equal as possible.”

    Also in a statement on Wednesday titled ‘Workers to earn more as FG seeks pay parity, says finance minister,’ Abdullahi said the aim of the payroll review directive given by the Federal Government which the minister mentioned was to achieve salary harmonisation, not reduction.

    Despite the minister’s aide explanations, the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, in a statement on Wednesday titled, ‘We have no more blood to bleed: Organised labour in Nigeria condemns and rejects plans to slash the salaries of Nigerian workers,’ berated Ahmed.

    He urged government to respond to the demands by Labour for an upward review of salaries of all workers.

    He stated, “It is most unthinkable that government would be contemplating to unilaterally slash the salaries of Nigerian workers at this time. The question to ask is ‘which salary is government planning to slash?’ It certainly cannot be the meagre national minimum wage of N30,000 which right now cannot even buy a bag of rice. The proposed slash in salaries is certainly not targeted at the minimum wage and consequential adjustment in salaries that some callous state governors are still dragging their feet to pay.

    “It is public knowledge that the multiple devaluation of the Naira in a very short time and the prevailing high inflation rate in Nigeria have knocked out the salaries earned by Nigerian workers across board. Nigerian workers are only surviving by hair’s breadth. Indeed, Nigerian workers are miracles strutting on two legs. It is, therefore, extremely horrendous for a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to pronounce salary slash for Nigerian workers at this time.’’

    “This call for salary slash by Mrs Zainab Ahmed is tantamount to a “mass suicide” wish for Nigerian workers. It is most uncharitable, most insensitive, most dehumanizing and most barbaric. Nigerian workers demand an immediate retraction and apology by the minister of finance.”

    In his reaction, the ASCSN president, Dr Tommy Etim admonished the government to cut salaries of political office holders, adding that National Assembly members should sit on a part-time basis.

    He said, “The government should reduce the pay of political office holders, the pay cut should begin with the political office holders. Not only that, let them also come up with a law that will make National Assembly to be on a part-time basis. Their sitting should be on a part-time basis because the chunk of money goes to them.

    “So, it would be better if the government looks towards that direction and leaves the civil service alone. A civil servant is responsible for more than five family members by African tradition extended family system. So, how do you expect them to survive on N30,000 minimum wage? Some states are not even paying. I mean, it is absurd for any government to contemplate pay cut for workers at this point.’’

    Also some civil rights groups condemned the Federal Government. The Convener of Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, said the political office holders should cut the cost of governance.

    He noted, “All the ministries in Nigeria buy cars worth billions every year. Only the ministry of health, police, and the military need official vehicles. Imagine if we sell all the vehicles in all the ministries and parastatals, we would have saved billions of naira which can also be used in developing the economy.”

    The Executive Director, Coalition in Defence of Democracy and Constitution, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said the NLC president lacked the capacity to engage the FG on workers welfare and should be removed by the union members.”

    He stated, “The decision of the FG to reduce workers salaries is an attempt to send workers into penury and weaponise poverty. That’s what this regime has been doing since 2015.”

    Copyright PUNCH.

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