A new bill before the House of Representatives has proposed stiff penalties for employers of labour in both the public and private sectors who fail to pay or delay the payment of workers’ salaries.
The bill passed second reading on Tuesday, getting the support of the majority of lawmakers at a session presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal.
It also proposes that underpayment of workers’ wages; pension and emolument will attract sanctions.
According to the sponsor of the bill and House Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, the penalties will include the loss of 10 to 20 per cent of the value of the delayed salary.
He explained that after a salary delay of one week, the employer would begin to lose percentages of the salary, which would be added to the employee’s pay.
Gbajabiamila said, “Late payment or no payment of salary encourages corruption. People are forced to seek unlawful means to meet their financial and family obligations. It is our responsibility as legislators to protect the welfare of the citizenry. There is no point saying you have a job, yet no pay.
“This bill prescribes a period, beginning from seven days; the employer will pay a percentage in addition to the salary. From 10 per cent, it can rise to 20 per cent, and so on.”
Another member, Mr. Jerry Manwe, blamed the problem of non-payment of salaries on employers’ greed.
He said a practice common in some government agencies was to lodge workers’ salaries in fixed deposit accounts to yield interests for “some greedy officials, who keep telling the suffering workers that there is no money.”
Also backing the bill, Mr. Godfrey Gaiya, observed that employment was a contract between the employer and the employee.
“A labourer deserves his wage,” he said.
An attempt by the House Deputy Majority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, to oppose the bill, however, failed.
Ogor claimed that criminalising salary delays or non-payment of salaries could lead to “more problems that the bill intends to solve.”
He argued that some delays could be caused by “cash-flow challenges and not that the employer does not want to pay.”
But, his position on the bill was defeated by a majority voice vote endorsing it.