Empowering workers will stimulate economy – NLC President


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Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President Ayuba Wabba has said that empowerment of workers through an upward review of wages will stilmulate growth of the Nigerian economy.

Wabba stated this while fielding questions during the News Agency of Nigeria Forum in Abuja on Sunday.

He said now was the right time to review the present minimum wage of N18,000 and that the congress had made a formal demand for it.

According to him, since the union put a formal demand before government to try and review the minimum wage and the argument has been whether it is the right time to review the minimum wage.

“We have defended that position effectively; in the midst of the recession in U.S. in 2008, the first economic response of the government of Obama was to the effect that workers needed to be empowered.

“Because they must be buying and selling for the economy to be stimulated; if you produce and nobody to buy how can the economy can pick up?

“Therefore, the argument is you have to empower the workers, which will in turn empower the middle and lower stratum of the society; and by so doing, the economy will pick up and that is how the economy picks up.

“There is no way you can address the issue and challenges in the economy without empowering the workers.

“If not, they will continue to be impoverished; so, you have a pool of working poor that cannot meet their needs and productivity will be very low.

“Therefore, anywhere in the world where there is recession, you put it side by side; outside the issue of addressing and putting in place sound macro-economic policies, is also the issue of empowering people.

“These are the issues that we have argued and government has accepted that yes there is a need to actually review the minimum wage,’’ Wabba said.

The NLC president stressed the need to have a happy work force, saying that it would increase productivity.

The president explained that the minimum wage as recognised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), is a wage that a person who had laboured should be paid in order to avoid exploitation from employers.

He said labour was trying to address the issue of exploitation because if you allow everybody to go and pay what they want because of the unemployment situation in Nigeria, some people will go and pay N5,000.

Wabba said that the congress was working hard for the review of an aspect of the Minimum Wage Law, which states that the law would only apply to employers, employing about 50 people.

“Presently, the Pension Law says that even if you are employing five people, you will pay the minimum wage because we are talking of a minimum that will be able to sustain a family of four for a period of 30 days.

“Can N18, 000 truly in the context of the present economy sustain a family of four for 30 days? The obvious answer is no, So, why can’t we review it?’’ he asked.

He, however, said that the government had accepted the NLC’s stand on the need to review the Minimum Wage. (NAN)

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