My minimum wage confusion

Imagine what the daily wage of each university graduate in the civil service would amount to if they were to be paid at the end of each working day.

Funke Egbemode

I am the first to admit that Nigerian workers are poorly paid if you call what they take home at the end of the month “pay”. Imagine what the daily wage of each university graduate in the civil service would amount to if they were to be paid at the end of each working day. Compare a graduate’s entry level salary of N70,000 to what the unskilled laborer gets per day. For example, if yours sincerely needs to clear my farm, I pay N2,000 to each labourer. They close at 4pm. So if I need them from 30 days, each laborer (unskilled, not graduates who have both degrees and NYSC certificates) earns N60,000 only. Come to think of it, on some days, they even insist on N3,000. That’s one way to calculate the unfairness of the current N18,000 minimum wage right? What about how much your cook and househelp earn? Even if it’s just N20,000, it is still higher than what a fresh graduate in government service earns. You don’t believe me? I’ll explain.

READ ALSO: Wabba tasks Fayemi on prompt payment of Ekiti workers salary arrears

Your N20,000-per-month cook lives with you, right? So, he does not pay transport fare to and from work like your young graduate nephew. He probably has a uniform, which he also washes with your detergent and probably your washing machine. Because he lives in your “boys’ quarters”, he doesn’t pay rent. He does not have to worry about pre-paid or post-paid meter and electricity bills and other power allied headaches. And when there is outage, he enjoys your power generator. So, he does not have to buy even I-pass-my-neighbour generator. Oh, I forgot, he eats exactly what you, his boss eats. He’s the cook! He probably makes plenty of extra money from doing your shopping too. Think of all that his job offers him: food, accommo- dation, and plenty of other unwritten emoluments. He probably learnt how to cook your native meals from his mother? He didn’t go to any French cooking classes, did he? The one you pay N20,000? I don’t want to imagine how much you pay the one who went to school. I have a friend who lives in Ikoyi and pays N80,000 only and she clothes and houses him too. The tips? Huge.

Imagine how much ‘esusu’ (monthly contribution) he can do without going hungry or worrying about transport fares. Multiply, for instance, his N20,000 ‘esusu’ savings monthly by 12 and tell me how many civil servants earning N50,000 per month can save N20,000 every month. Don’t stop there, tell me also how many graduate civil servants on Level 8, Step 2, whose jobs come with three square meals, accommodation and indeed getting chauffeur driven (by the family driver or the head of the family himself) to church or public functions.

So, I totally think our civil servants deserve more pay. Of course, what they do compared to what a housekeeper does differ. But I’d be lynched if I delve into that comparison right now, so I won’t bother. I won’t bother with whose fault it is that some people are underworked and overpaid or bellyache about the ones who are over worked and underpaid. Not today. Let’s just leave it at: our civil servants need civil pay. But that’s where I draw the line. Let’s now engage the reality takes.

If an employer who promised you N18,000 is struggling to pay you once in four months and now you are kicking up a fuss that he should pay N56,000, it is either you have left reality or you know something the rest of the world doesn’t know.

Most states are drowning in salary debts. Many governors have been rechristened based on the percentage of the salaries they pay. They too are worried about how history will remember them considering the size of the salary debt portfolio. One confessed recently that he also wondered whether it is holy or fair to hand over the biggest chunk of the state’s monthly allocation (and IGR) to government workers, considering that he got into office with the votes of artisans, farmers, market women, private sector workers etc. Poor governor, he sees the civil servants chasing him with brooms in his dream on Mondays and the private sector people threatened him with whips in his Tuesday dreams. Now, the same civil servants he owes N18,000 want N56,000. Do they want to kill him self or commit murder or what? He’s afraid of sleeping now.

The Nigerian Labour Congress definitely knows something you and I need to devote quality time to research. I know the nation has a penchant for spending more on questionable projects, like congested cities, spending tons of billions on expanding roads, which they will dig up again in a few years with more tons of billions to build more rails. I know we’ve got stupendous leakages all over the budget. Rackets everywhere, most of them supervised by civil servants too.

READ ALSO: Civil servants resume work after labour strike, independence holiday

The big boys in the civil service know what I’m talking about but since the topic of this column is not civil servants and uncivil rackets, let’s leave it for now. However, I know that it’s civil service. Both NLC and TUC (Trade Union Congress) will need to get involved in budgeting at the point it is being put together. They need to expose these leakages and rackets on all platforms: traditional and social media. They need to follow the money, otherwise the only thing their strikes will achieve is clearing traffic for city dwellers. When they go on strike, there are fewer vehicles on the road, fewer customers in the banking hall for city dwellers and journalist have their jobs cut out for them during the period. Easy production schedules for the newsrooms. To get this N56,000 will require hard work, sacrifice and shaking the table. No budget, state or federal can be padded without civil servants. For as long as civil servants help politicians to use synonyms in budgets substituting books and pens with stationaries, strikes will continue to provide easy headlines and control traffic.

The media will help. Nigeria will help. NLC and TUC just need to restrategize.

However, I differ totally, strongly with Labour at that point where they want to earn the same money with politician and political office holders. Haba, what’s that now? What kind of comparison is that?

See, politicians are different kind of workers. They invest, body, blood and soul. They sell and sow seeds even where there is no soil and are so optimistic of bountiful harvest you can’t take away their yields. They won’t even allow it. Political office holders are exactly that, h-o-l-d-e-r-s. Let not labour compare workers to them. It’s school civil servant attended and they obtained fine degree, after which they wrote fine application letters and got fine offices.

Politician? Fine lies, fine promises they don’t keep, gutter fight, very untrue details nobody should bother to even write a book on.

Take for instance, the ‘juju’ and ‘jazz’ (why does fetish things have fine music aliases?) political office holders have to take care of while civil servants speak fine English. Imagine having to bathe with blood at road junctions at midnight to win election. Imagine being told to dance on hot prayer mountain barefooted so that the godfathers will not take away your ticket. You and I can make a very long list of dark things politicians do when civil servants are snoring nicely beside their spouses. They deserve to be nicely paid, I dare say. If you don’t agree with me, you are free to tell me how to reward politicians who love us so much, desire to serve us so much that they bathe in blood, sell their inheritance and mortgage mansions to win elections. Such uncommon love! And then tell me how fair it is to pay civil servants who invest only in education the same wages as politicians. Really.

READ ALSO: Caught with juju, aspirants agents arrested at Ekiti APC Primary

The post My minimum wage confusion appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.

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