The atmosphere was sombre on Friday at the State House in Marina, where the Lagos State Government and leaders of organised labour unions held a low-key event to commemorate the 2020 Workers’ Day.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu used the opportunity of the May Day anniversary to appreciate frontline health and emergency workers, whom he described as heroes, for sacrificing their personal wellbeing for the efforts at combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Governor said the commemoration of Workers’ Day should be a reminder to stakeholders that the concept of development must be far-reaching and inclusive for it to benefit the society in general.
Describing labour force as “a critical stakeholder” in good governance and “engine-room” of the economic growth, Sanwo-Olu said his administration, since inception, had prioritised payment of new minimum wage to workers as a demonstration of his Government’s commitment to improving their welfare.
He also said his administration had continued to assist families of workers who die in the line of duty, adding that the State had not relented, despite COVID-19 pandemic, in paying 418 pensioners for their pension bond arrears.
He said: “It is only fitting that I dedicate this year’s commemoration of the Workers’ Day to celebrating the true heroes of this season, which are the health workers on the frontline of the battle against Covid-19. Since this virus started to ravage our communities and disrupt our lives, these heroes have not just been going to work daily, they have been going to war daily against this unseen enemy.
“Workers across public and private sectors, who are represented by various Labour Unions, are the engine-rooms of our economy, and the nucleus of wealth generation. My administration will always seek harmonious relationship with workers for the progress and prosperity of our State. The prompt approval and payment of the new minimum wage is a proof that we care about the welfare of our workforce.”
With effect from last January, Gov. Sanwo-Olu said his Government had increased the employers’ contribution to employees’ Retirement Savings Account (RSA) from 7.5 per cent to 10 per cent. This, he said, complemented employees’ contribution of 8 per cent, bringing it to a total of monthly contribution of 18 per cent.
Sanwo-Olu said his administration had also approved the monthly release of a pension bail-out fund to the tune of N1.083 billion.
Sanwo-Olu disclosed that the State Government had procured additional life and health insurance for all frontline health workers to cater for the hazard they face in the ongoing battle against coronavirus, bringing it to two-level protection. This is in addition to the approval of increment in the hazard allowance of frontline emergency workers.
He said: “I should also mention that we have put in place additional health and life insurance for all our frontline health workers in the state to ensure that they are adequately insured. This gives them insurance protection on two levels.
As part of the ongoing efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Lagos, we approved a 400 per cent increment in the Hazard Allowance of Health Officers in the State for the month of April. We have also introduced a COVID-19 Allowance for all our frontline workers, which is a very generous amount that takes cognizance of the heightened risks of the jobs they have to do. All these are intended to appreciate the dedication of all our Health Officers in the fight against COVID-19.”
He reiterated his commitment to workers’ welfare, stressing that his Government had expanded the opportunity of training and capacity building for the Lagos workforce.
Sanwo-Olu said there was nothing that better amplified his Government’s devotion to the growth of the workforce than the launch of a knowledge-sharing platform tagged: “A Disruptive S.H.i.F.T”, which rewarded an outstanding public servant, Seun Ogunmola, with accelerated promotion from Grade Level 08 to 10.
He said the initiative reflected his administration’s resolve to harness the creativity and innovativeness of public servants to positively change the face of the State’s Public Service, with a view to achieving the vision of making Lagos a 21st century economy.
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) chairman in Lagos, Comrade Agnes Sessi, said despite the ravaging pandemic, the contribution of workers to the development of the State could not be undermined.
She prayed for all emergency and health workers on the frontline, stressing that the ravaging virus had affected many workers in all spheres.
She praised the Governor for the increment of hazards allowance from 5,000 to 25,000 for health workers, saying the gesture would truly serve as motivation for the frontline workers.
Her Trade Union Congress (TUC) counterpart, Comrade Gbenga Ekundayo, hailed the Governor for upward review of salaries and allowances for workers.