Owing workers salary could soon be a criminal offence as new bill passes second reading
by Rachel Ogbu
Soon delay in payment of workers’ salaries could become a criminal offense. A new bill has passed its second reading at the House of Representatives recommending hard penalties for employers in the public and private sectors who fail to pay or delay employees’ salaries.
On Tuesday it was reported that the bill gained incredible support from lawmakers at a session with the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal.
According to the sponsor of the bill and House Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, owing of workers’ wages; pension and emolument will attract sanctions and the penalties will include the loss of 10 to 20 per cent of the value of the delayed salary.
Gbajabiamila explained that one week after a salary is overdue; the employer would begin to lose percentages of the salary, which would be added to the employee’s pay.
“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.”
It was believed that the reason behind delayed salaries were often very selfish hence the need for a law. House member, Jerry Manwe, said some government agencies was known to hold workers’ salaries in fixed deposit accounts to profit interests for “some greedy officials, who keep telling the suffering workers that there is no money.”
Godfrey Gaiya said “a labourer deserves his wage” alleging that employment was a contract between the employer and the employee.
According to reports, House Deputy Majority Leader, Leo Ogor tried to oppose the bill claiming that criminalising non-payment of salaries could lead to “more problems that the bill intends to solve.”
He argued that not all some owed wages were selfish or from greed as it could also be “cash-flow challenges and not that the employer does not want to pay.”
However, his position failed to draw support as the majority voice voted in support of the bill.