How Some Nigerian Employers Indirectly Promote Slavery In Their Workplaces

If there is anything that impudently stares Nigeria and Nigerians in the face these days, it is the fact that jobs, good jobs, I mean to say, are hard to come by.

As if that's not enough, even those who have decided to manage whatever their hand can find are indirectly being short-changed by their employers.

To be honest with ourselves, it is the number one reason why all sort of criminalities: kidnapping, armed robbery, prostitution, child trafficking, Internet fraud, insurgency have been on the rise in recent time.

And it is not funny. In fact, it is scary.

On top of that, the federal government of Nigeria recently signed the new minimum wage of 30,000 naira into law.

And the law is said to be binding on all employers of labor in the country.
Ordinarily, that should ameliorate the problem in the estimation of the policy formulators.

The question that readily comes to mind is how? I'm afraid, it may not. Indeed, it may end up compounding it. Why?

Before this new minimum wage of 30,000 naira was signed into law, we had 18,000 naira as a minimum wage.

But how many employers were able to pay?

Of course, only a few were able to pay. And these few were largely government establishments. The others were the big private establishments.

Is it then not better for the private sector and other lower arms of government to negotiate with the worker's representatives on how much they will be able to pay instead of lumping everything together?

It is a fact that even some states and local government were unable to pay when it was 18,000 naira. How are we sure they will be able to pay now that the bar has been raised?

I discovered, lately, that the same job, for instance, which I did way back in 1997 for 15,000 naira still goes for the same amount in 2019. Which job I'm talking about? Security Guard!

And the reason is that employers who can't pay up to 25,000 naira for instance still think it is wise to contract out the same job to security companies who will now pay the security guards between 13,000 and 15,000 naira. Isn't that ridiculous in this age and time?

My suggestion is if you're an establishment with a small budget, why not get retired police or military men to give them a crash training on how to secure a property and persons; and then equip them, a lot of companies do it, and there's nothing spectacular about it.

After all, they are merely civil guards who don't bear firearms. And what do they do? They open the gate for visitors, patrol and raise alarm when there are intruders with mortal weapons.

*NLC President Ayuba Waba (right) in the company of Labor and productivity minister, Chris Ngige and Mr. President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Rock on the 7th March 2019. Source: Vanguard.

As I was saying, even as negotiations were going on about the new minimum wage, there were discordant voices on the likelihood of some establishments being unable to pay.

At the end of the day, the beneficiaries of this new minimum wage increase are going to be those who are already in employment.

Like before, others will struggle and may not be able to meet up. Would that not leave us worse off than we were before? I'm sure the answer is obvious enough.

As if the problem is not bad enough, there are yet employers of labor, especially in the private sector who indirectly promote slavery in their workplaces.

I think I can excuse, even forgive many of them who honestly lacked the capacity to pay up to 30,000 naira or even up to 18,000 naira.

But what about those companies who can actually pay exactly 30,000 naira or a little below yet decided in their wisdom to contract the same jobs out to private companies.

Unless a clause is inserted into the contract which compels them to pay a certain amount, the greedy contractors are at liberty to take even the larger percentage of the agreed sum leaving the workers to slave off their time on the job. Isn't that criminal?

Why not contract out the recruitment process while they pay the worker something in the semblance of a living wage.

My take is that the moment employers know they cannot pay up to the amount stipulated by law, they should refrain themselves from contracting out or outsourcing the same jobs.

I know the challenge most of the time is the lack of capacity either in the area of recruitment or training of members of staff.

To get around this, affected companies can begin to slowly commit resources to build the needed capacities which in the long run help free members of their workforce from been taken advantage of by greedy contractors as it is now.

Above all, to tackle the menace, government at all levels, employers of labor, and labor unions must as a matter of urgency collaborate to eliminate the existence of needless middlemen in job recruitment processes especially when it is found to negatively impact on the welfare of the Nigerian workers.

This anomaly exists both in the formal and the informal sectors of the economy just so you know.


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