FIGHT FOR A LIVING WAGE
FIGHT FOR A LIVING WAGE
The demand of Labour for a minimum wage of N52,200 is more than just. In fact, when a real survey of the basic needs of an average working class/family, (with respect to feeding, housing, healthcare, transportation, children education, telecommunications, electricity, etc), are taken into consideration, this is nothing but a very modest demand. Nonetheless, Nigeria’s capitalist governments, both the ruling PDP and opposition parties like the ANPP, AC, PPA, etc are opposed to this modest demand and in fact will go to any length to defeat it. Already, faced with a modest demand for an increment in teachers’ wages, capitalist governments across the country have been threatening to carry out mass retrenchment if forced to meet the teachers’ demand. Most certainly, the ever self-serving capitalist governments and employers of labour would threaten Armageddon â€“ i.e. the destruction/end of the world if they are to pay a minimum wage of N52,200.
IS IT REALISTIC/ACHIEVABLE?
Up till date, the PDP controlled Federal Government has not taken any positive step to meet workers, demand for a minimum wage of N52,200. However, going by comments coming from government spokespersons and private employers of labour, it is clear that only serious mass struggles including industrial strikes and public demonstrations can win the new minimum wage for the working masses.
Making a veiled reference to a labour’s demand for a new minimum wage, President Yar’Adua, while addressing the PDP’s National Executive Council recently, made the following statement: “While we are in this crisis, we must make sacrifices and we must be realistic. We must look beyond ourselves. It is in the collective interest of the nation to make sacrifice and tighten belt. So, we must make sacrifice, we have to face it because it is real. Prices of crude oil are hovering between $40 and $50 a barrel. We need sacrifice and belt tightening”. Thus, from the beginning, Yar’Adua’s capitalist government is hiding under the cover of the prevailing global crisis to deny ordinary working masses a just demand for a living wage. The working class and ordinary people must stoutly reject government’s excuse in this regard.
Capitalist government and their ideologues must be told in plain language that the ordinary working masses are no longer prepared to quietly bear the brunt of their unjust system. For instance, it is easy for President Yar’Adua to cite the sharp decline of oil prices as reasons why people must tighten their belt and accept poverty wages. However, the ordinary masses must confront them with the fact that while a barrel of crude oil was selling at about $147, little or nothing of this was spent to develop key infrastructures or to effect a significant improvement in the living standard of the working class people. On the contrary and very tragically too, this coincided with the period when pro-rich, anti-people neo-liberal capitalist policies reached a peak. For example, this era witnessed the colossal destruction of public education and public health care system as well as the stoppage of construction of mass and affordable houses for the working class elements. This was also the period when government, through the policy of privatisation and monetisation, accelerated the sales of juicy and lucrative public assets and including choice houses and properties to themselves at cheap prices and while of course using looted public funds to pay for same.
While not busy looting public treasury through awards of fake and highly over inflated contracts, the capitalist ruling elites had only used their positions to pay jumbo salaries and allowances to themselves. For instance, a Senator officially earn as wages about N28 million per annum, while Reps members earn N24 million each. At the same time, members of the House of Representatives â€“ 360 of them â€“ pick up “constituency allowances” of N35 million each per quarter; that is N140 million per year. Senators collect N48 million per quarter, or N192 million per year. This means that a one-term Senator will be N768 million richer in four years. These numbers do not include allocations or other kill-and-divide sums!
However, while the capitalist elites live in dizzy opulence, the vast majority of Nigerians have been condemned into a life of abject poverty. At the end of February, 2009, the United Nations’ Habitat Organisation reported that while in 1996, the poverty rate in Nigeria was 46 percent, it had now sky-rocketed to 76 percent. The Federal Government’s own Bureau of Statistics reported that 40 million Nigerians are unemployed, which is a 65 percent unemployment rate among employable Nigerians.
Consequently, the DSM strongly hold that based on the relevant economic factors and resources (both real and potential), which Nigeria possess, the demand of a minimum wage of N52,200 is not only realistic but in fact, achievable. However, within the framework of the prevailing profit first capitalist ideology, it would not be possible to win the demand for a decent pay that would not result in mass retrenchment of workers. Therefore, labour leaders have to brace up for the reality of fighting to replace the current unjust system with a democratic socialist order wherein the main economic resources of society including lands and finance would be collectively used to cater for the needs of everybody and not just that of a few millionaires.
UNDER CAPITALISM, THINGS WILL ONLY GET WORSE FOR THE MASSES
The DSM urges the working masses to fight against poverty wages and for a decent living standard in general. We pointedly urge the working masses to collectively rise up now and fight to replace the capitalist governments across the country with a workers and poor peasant government. Right now, all the major policies being advocated and implemented by various capitalist governments across the country are only capable of perpetuating and deepening the degree of mass poverty ravaging the ordinary working class people. For instance, deregulation and privatisation of the oil sector would essentially means the transferring of the nation’s fabulous oil wealth to a few capitalist corporations and individuals. And contrary to lies being presently told, this process would only ultimately lead to a situation where the ordinary Nigerians would have to pay more for products which the country is naturally endowed with!
The porous argument that governments need to privatize and deregulate the commanding heights of the nation’s economy because of mismanagement and corruption should be rejected in totality. All over the world capitalist governments are being forced to rescue banks and companies ruined by the world crisis, while at the same time trying to cut workers’ living standards in country after country. Apart from demanding that those that mismanaged and looted publicly owned corporations be tried and fully sanctioned, workers must henceforth fight that all publicly owned corporations be placed under the democratic control of the working class and professionals. Taken as part of a general measure to utilize the nation’s natural and human resources primarily to meet the basic needs of every Nigerian, working class democratic control and management of public assets and corporations would prevent the situation where publicly owned companies are daily looted by their capitalist managers who would then turn round to argue that the concept of a public ownership is not working.
Similarly, we urge the working class to rise up now to fight the Yar’Adua government’s anti-labour laws being presently processed by the National Assembly. Under the threat of mass protest and the anger of the general public President Yar’Adua made a promise to carry out an electoral reform with a view to guarantee free and fair elections in the future. However, with the release of the government’s white paper of the Electoral Review Panel headed by the retired Chief Justice Uwais, it is clear that capitalist ruling elites will never voluntary put in place the truly democratic electoral arrangement that can enable genuine pro-masses’ leaders to ever emerge as winners in elections.
Recently, the Appeal Court nullified the elections of the PDP candidate as the duly elected governor of Ekiti State, because the court found, as a fact, that the votes used to declare its candidate, Mr. Segun Oni, as winner were largely procured in a fraudulent manner. Instead of showing remorse over this act of brigandage, President Yar’Adua, in his campaign speech for Oni’s re-election, was already boasting that Mr. Segun Oni would only end up spending six years as governor in his first term in office.
This of course, only goes to underline what the DSM had always been stating that the ruling capitalist parties would stop at nothing to perpetrate their hold on power by crook or hook. This therefore, raises the need for the working masses to get politically organized and fight to have its own independent political party that is built on a working class, democratic socialist ideology. In this respect, we totally condemn the attempt to drag the Labour Party into the so-called “mega party” made up of equally anti-poor, corrupt capitalist parties like the ANPP, AC, PPA, etc. and urge the working class elements to put pressure on the trade union and Labour Party leaders not to go ahead with this.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE
For too long a time, the vast majority of Nigerians have been kept under excruciating poverty in the midst of a stupendous and inexhaustible natural and human resources. Therefore, the current global capitalist crisis has only provided an excuse for the ruling elite to continue to live a stupendous opulence at the expense of the society and the masses’ vital needs. This is the time to begin to steadily and consciously fight this capitalist imposed mass misery. By showing readiness to engage the ruling class in a determined and protracted struggles and mass actions for the actualization of the N52,200 minimum wage, the ordinary masses can begin to send a clear message to the ruling elites that they are no longer prepared to pay for the failure of capitalist policies especially that they did not make any significant benefit from its boom. To this end, we urge all the working class people and youth in public and private employment as well as in the communities to immediately begin to form action committees across the country with a view to prosecute the impending struggles being championed by the trade union movements and LASC. This should be a key preparation for the holistic struggle to bring to bring into existence a workers’ and poor government that will remove permanently from power the ever self-serving capitalist rulers by ending their unjust system.
The first step should be a powerful May Day, not an excuse for politicians and companies to advertise themselves but a demonstration of Labour’s strength and board support. The next step after May Day should be a 48 hour General Strike in June to warn the government that Labour is serious in pursuing its demands.