Despite the numerous challenges facing the country’s workers, the Young Christian Workers’ Movement of Nigeria’s passion for the nation’s workforce is undimmed. Rather the association designed an elaborate event in commemoration of the 18th International Workers’ Day celebration also referred to as May Day. The Editor, NETA NWOSU speaks with the President, Young Christian Workers (YCW), Archdiocese of Lagos, Mrs. DoreenIjeoma Ayaborsi, a growth strategist and social entrepreneur on the YCW, essence of three-in-one event, state of the Nigerian worker and other contemporary issues. Excerpts:
Please briefly tell us about the Young Christian Workers Association. How did it start, what are its key values?
The Young Christian Workers Movement of Nigeria, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos is an international Lay Apostolate group for the young adult in the Catholic Archdiocese with its seal in Rome. The YCW is a movement that promotes the Lay apostolate of the Lay people of the second Vatican council and the dogmatic constitution on the Church ‘Lumen Gentium”. The YCW calls people out of isolation into small groups where they come to know their true worth and dignity. Our motto is ‘ See, Judge and Act. While the two-way slogan is “YCW” and response is “the Difference is You”.
The movement started in the year 1924 by late Cardinal Joseph Cardijn in Brussel, It was later introduced in Nigeria by an English man, Mr William Murray from the International Coordination of the Young Christian Workers in the year 1957.The movement is currently in 14 Deaneries with over a 100 Centres Our Vision is “To create a world where young people make a difference, to enable the transformation needed in order for everyone to live a life of dignity worthy of the creator”, while our Mission is “To awaken the moral consciousness of Workers in order to transform them into efficient agents of change in their work environment and society.”
May 1 marks the double celebration of Feast of St. Joseph the Worker and International Workers’ Day. What do both events mean to YCW and the ordinary Nigerian Worker?
The workers day is a great day of celebration for the YCW, because we celebrate our Patron Saint, St. Joseph as a humble and contented worker, and we remind ourselves to be like him, a worker but yet devoted to God. It’s also a day we commemorate the historic struggles of workers and the labour movement, a day we stand up, trek and speak out (Soro Soke) to gain better working conditions, better pay and better lives, because if we don’t speak out, workers will continue to be exploited, we deserve to be treated better.
The theme of YCW celebration of International Workers Day is ‘Upholding integrity in the face of a big challenging economy’. What message is YCW trying to communicate with this theme?
The YCW understand the challenges faced by Workers in our world today, due to cost of living and bad leadership, we understand that integrity can be hard to define and difficult to measure, but you know it when you see it, and it’s clear when it’s not there. The message we plan sending across is that, having integrity in this challenging economy is possible and beneficial to all, if we can stay honest with ourselves and our limitations, it will help foster an open and positive work environment and an ethical approach to decision-making and raising great Leaders, for the good of all.
How would you describe the current state of Nigerian workers?
Conditions for workers in Nigeria are far from ideal, and this is a fact that needs no debate, Nigerian workers are exposed to all forms of exploitation and injustice. The overall unemployment rate is less than 23.1%. This comprises people that are willing to work but can’t find a job. Describing Nigerian Workers, I will say a Nigerian worker is in a state of hopelessness and perpetual agitation and this is a ticking time bomb and something needs to be done to ameliorate this.
Looking at the circumstances of Nigerian workers, does the country deserve to celebrate International Workers Day?
No doubt we are not in the best of times as a nation to celebrate Workers Day, because Nigeria Workers have lost hope for a better future, this is why integrity in a challenging economy is important for everyone of us to practice, to live our deepest values, this will help turn our economy around for good and the contribution of every Nigerian worker is key to the realisation of this positive change, Let’s live a life of integrity no matter the situation.
The welfare of the average Nigerian worker has depreciated greatly, while the development indicators such as exchange rate and inflation appear to have worsened. The N30,000 minimum wage was negotiated when naira was exchanged at N362 per dollar. Now a naira is exchanged at N415 to a dollar (official rate). Don’t you think that the government should review the minimum wage that is not clearly sustainable?
The N30,000 minimum wage is “neither realistic nor sustainable,” A modest increase would improve workers productivity, and reduce employee turnover and absenteeism. It would also boost the overall economy by generating increased consumer demand. And with the high cost of living, it’s necessary and of great importance that the government review the minimum wage.
What do you think of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in respect to Workers’ welfare and the work environment?
The Buhari administration is well aware of the bleak economic conditions of workers’ welfare and the bad work environment but to the best of my knowledge has done nothing about it. Our economy is not only suffering but appears to be the biggest victim of Buhari’s mal-administration and ineffectiveness.
Some people are of the view that the Trade Unions are no longer defending the interests of the workers. What do you think? Your views, please
Labour union, also known as trade union was considered as an association of labourers or workers formulated for the purpose of securing improvements in wages, benefits, working conditions and socio-political status through collective bargaining. But presently the union’s objectives have shifted from struggling to acquiring benefits for themselves only
What message do you have for Nigerian workers on this auspicious occasion?
As Nigerian workers join millions of workers all over the world to mark the May Day Celebration, they should not only focus on jolly making and jamborees but also reflect on the challenges of working class and how to address major issues like poverties, uncertainty of jobs, casualisation of workers, insecurity of lives and property, bad working environment, corruption and unemployment. With these and many more addressed, our country will great for everyone.