by Lai Browne
By late 2014, Nigeria delays in the wages and salaries of public sector workers started. Many working people hoped that this aberration would last for just a couple of months. But lo and behold non-payment of workers’ salaries is now becoming the new painful “normal”. State governments claim that their inability to pay workers’ salaries is basically because of the global economic crisis and consequent fall in oil price.
But during the oil boom of previous years only the few elites benefited. There was no significant improvement in the standard of living of the working people. And even now that there is economic crisis the bosses and the highly placed politicians are still collecting jumbo pays. It is thus totally unjustifiable to make the working class bear the brunt. Also amidst the noise of economic crisis from the ruling class, there have been huge diversions of workers’ collective wealth to fund political campaigns.
Osun state government is in the top league of states that have treated workers with disdain regarding salaries of arrears. The state government of Osun was not quick to pay workers even after the bailout funds arrived. This was obviously with the intent of accruing interests from depositing such huge funds in banks for a while. This alone is enough to show that the capitalist government of the state does not care about the needs of the working people but in reality puts the expansion of capital, their profits before the interest and welfare of the workers.
At the emergence of the current state governor in 2010, the state government introduced different reforms only to sustain the existing social forms without regards to the needs of the masses. Part of these reforms are; O’School, O’Reap, O’Yes, O’Meal but sadly the state government recently introduced another measure which is wickedness as it has rendered living miserable for many working people.
This new measure introduced by the state government is O’Half, in which the workers after working excessively for a full month period will be paid half of their salaries. Meanwhile before now the full salaries were not enough to sustain the workers amidst; high taxation, rising prices of basic commodities, hiked school fees, expensive health cost, electricity tariff hike, inflated pump price, and austerity. How are workers expected to make ends meet now, when the full salaries were not enough for workers to live on?
This payment of half salaries unfortunately is coming after long periods of non-payment of salaries. This is one of the reasons why SWL has called on trade unions to demand an increment of the minimum wage from N18,000 to N66,000. At the Comrade Hassan Sumonu symposium organised by the NLC, governor of Osun state, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola in his defence said that only workers from level 8 upwards are affected with half salaries payment, that from level 1 to 7 get their salaries in full and likewise the state governor said that the federal allocations for the state is not enough to sustain the state.
This is an attempt at divide and rule and a lazy way of addressing a serious problem. The state governor failed to be accountable regarding internally generated revenue, and only hammered on the federal allocation. He also failed to expatiate on how the federal allocations are being used that it is not enough to pay workers’ salaries.
He chose not to explain how much the state political office holders earn and how many of them have their salaries cut into half. Ordinarily an average worker earning N66,000 naira monthly would work for at least 37 years to earn the take home of a senator in a year, for example.
This is the time for Osun workers to rise up against the anti-poor people “O’Half”. An injury to one is an injury to all. Workers and youth… unite and fight!!!