Today, Nigerians who are lucky to have jobs are finding it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to survive on their monthly pay. The major reason for this is that the pay of the Nigerian worker is not only one of the lowest in the world; it has also not improved as it should in the face of changes in market conditions. Workers in the public sector are particularly worse off. As huge revenues have continued to be acquired from the sweat of workers, the pay and conditions of workers have continued to deteriorate; workers have increasingly been excluded from the wealth created by their labour. In Nigeria, the difference in pay between managers and workers is not only one of the highest in the world: out of every N1 paid as wages, managers collect more than 80 kobo while workers receieve less than 20 kobo; the difference has been increasing over the years. At the same time, owners and managers of banks, top government officials and members of the political class have seen their pay and wealth swell ostronomically while workers have had to survive on starvation wages. Workers can no longer survive on what they earn; the situation is made worse by the fact that those who work also have to support family members who form part of the huge army of the unemployed. It has become crystal clear that there is an urgent need for an upward review of the national minimum wage and an upward general review of wages and salaries. History of wage reviews fought by workers This is not the first time that workers would be asking for a general upward review of wages and an increase in the National Minimum Wage. Between 1945 when workers staged the famous 45 days general strike for a Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) and 2007, when the demand won by workers for a 25% general wage through the Ernest Shonekan Wage Consolidation Committee was arbitrarily cut down to 15% by Obasanjo, workers have struggled at 15 times to have wages improved and a national minimum wage legislated upon. But the struggles produced notable victories for workers and the NLC, it was usually the case that: the National Minimum Wage was always set below the minimum wage needed by workers to survive. Because of the inadequacy of the wage, some state governments elected on their own to pay more. Even then, there were also some 1
state governments that pay less than the stipulated national minimum wage. The result was that workers always could not cope. The wage reviews were largely unstructured; sometimes negotiated wages were changed by government through circulars; at other times, government effected unilateral wage increases. Agreements reached with government were sometimes distorted at implementation or not implemented at all by government. For example, the 2000 Wage Review Agreement provided for a further 25per cent wage increase for workers with effect from May 1, 2001, and 15 per cent wage increase with effect from May 1, 2002. This was not implemented. Following industrial dispute over this a 121/2 percent increase rather than the 35 per cent agreement in 2000, was signed in 2003. But in the end, only an increase of between 4 and 12 1/2 per cent was implemented by the Federal Government. Although the Shonekan Committee was set up against this background and recommended a 25% increase in salaries, Obasanjo unilaterally implemented a 15% increase in 2007. Government also failed to abide by the timeframes set out for subsequent negotiations with workers.
Workers always had to fight to get government to agree to collective bargaining even when the procedure was agreed in previous negotiations. Today, workers find that they have to fight yet again to get government to agree to negotiate a new National Minimum Wage and a general upward review of wages. Rationale for Upward Wage Review today There are several reasons why there must be an upward...