DSM Intervention at May DAY: Reports across the country
DSM Intervention at May DAY: Reports across the country
Members of DSM actively participated in this year’s May Day events at nine of the centres across the country.
The general report of this intervention has already been published on this website.
Below are the reports from four of the centres DSM comrades intervened which capture more insights and moods at the rallies in Abuja, Osun, Oyo and Ondo states.
By Ewebiyi Keye James
In Abuja, as early as 8:00am, workers from different unions trooped to the Eagle’s Square in different attires, they displayed the logo and slogans peculiar to their respective unions. The Abuja rally was jointly organized by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). This year’s ‘May Day’ was celebrated in Abuja amidst tight security with workers placed under close security scrutiny before being allowed passage into venue.
Heavily-armed security operatives, numbering over 500, were dispatched to the venue to checkmate possible breach of law and order. This is not unconnected to the armed insurgency of the Islamic sect “Boko Haram”. Some workers were harassed and denied entrance into the venue by some men of the police force.
About 10,000 workers drawn from over 50 unions participated in the rally. The workers in their various groups had a march past around the venue, singing solidarity songs, chanting demands and paying tributes to the standing labour union and government officials. However, the mood of the workers was more of regrets than festivity as most of them recalled that the demands raised at the last May Day were yet to be met by government and private employers. These include the demand for the implementation of the N18, 000 minimum wage, an end to casualization and privatization among others. Very few placards were on display which was quite unlike the previous celebrations. The placards read: “No to Privatization of PHCN”, Time for System Change is Now”, “Prosecute the Fuel Subsidy Thieves”, “No to Fuel Price Hike” etc.
In his speech, the TUC President, Comrade Peter Esele said the January strike has shown that power lies in the masses and that it takes only a revolutionary to effect revolutionary changes in the society. Esele further decried the rate of “dishonest behaviour” in the oil and gas sector and called for its repositioning for the economic stability of the nation. Despite these radical phrases, Esele did not fail to reveal his agreement with the ruling class on neo-liberalism. According to him, the NNPC has to be operated like a commercial entity and there is need to urgently pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to bring professionalism to the sector â€“ a code word for deregulation of the oil sector.
In his own address, the NLC President, Abdulwahed Omar informed the gathering that this year’s celebration marks the centenary of formal trade unionism in Nigeria but was quick to note that this historic achievement was not worth celebrating considering the high rate of poverty and insecurity in the country:
“This occasion of a May Day in the centenary of trade unionism in our country, ordinarily should have called for celebrations. This is more so when from January 9 to 16, 2012, the Labour Movement led the Nigerian people in unprecedented strikes, mass rallies and street protests against poverty-inducing government policies including ruinous increases in fuel price, massive corporate corruption and high cost of governance. However, our victory songs turned ash in our mouths with the killing of at least fifteen persons during the peaceful protests”.
A one-minute silence was observed in memory of those who lost their lives during the January strike. Six members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) participated at the Abuja rally. We distributed about 2,000 copies of our Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) ‘Join Us’ Leaflet as well as the Joint Action Front’s May Day message leaflets. We also engaged in discussions with some prospective SPN members. Our SPN banner was displayed before and during the march past. 200 copies of the latest edition of our paper “Socialist Democracy” were sold at the rally.
By Kola Ibrahim
Around 105 copies of the Socialist Democracy were sold while virtually all the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) leaflets were distributed. Fifteen (15) comrades participated in the intervention. We were also able to display the SPN and DSM banners at the venue of the May Day, held at the Technical College, along Iwo road, Osogbo. In addition, we marched with the SPN and DSM banners and placards (with such inscriptions as ‘Osun Govt. Should Pay N18, 000 Minimum Wage Now’, ‘No To OYES Slavery’, ‘Give Me Water Now’, ‘No To Privatization of PHCN’, ‘Pay OYES and Oyincorp N18, 000 Minimum Wage’, etc.). We were warmly received by workers for the march while at least two workers belonging to NULGE joined our march, carried our banners, and put down their names on the SPN list.
The governor, seriously embarrassed by our placards and the warm receptions they received, had to reply to our banner on the OYES slavery, with the claim that without the OYES, there would have been chaos in the state. While we welcome any effort at engaging the unemployed, we however disagree with the slave manner in which the programme was conducted: a situation where they are paid peanuts as wages with no right to unionize, among other anti-democratic prescriptions.
The governor later sent his goons (comprising SSS agents and party thugs) to attack our comrade, Ayo Ademiluyi (while he was displaying our placard) to seize our placards. When comrades challenged these state thugs, they claimed to have been ordered by the governor, who they claim wanted to read them (!). Interestingly, tens of workers intervened on our behalf, although the placards were not released. More copies of SD were sold at Press Conference and Solidarity Walk held by the NLC and TUC on Friday and Saturday (28th and 29th April), prior to the May Day.
As expected, this year’s May Day was radicalized by the demand of workers for the implementation of the N18, 000 minimum wage. Osun State government is only paying a wage of less than N14, 000. The Day started around 10.30 a.m. when the governors arrived. Signs that workers were prepared to demand their wage right was expressed during the processions. Started by the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, agitation for the implementation of minimum wage got to the crescendo with the marches of local government workers and teachers, whose sheer size and continuous but strident songs for implementation of minimum became real headache for the governor, his entourage and the labour leaders.
The labour leaders, NLC and TUC, though demanded that the government implement the N18, 000 minimum wage, but they did not mention what is to be done in case the governor refused to heed this call of workers. Interestingly it was the same labour leader (NLC) while reading the speech of the national leadership of the NLC, who announced the directive of the national leadership of NLC to state labour leaders to take actions on the minimum wage where the governors are defaulting. Despite the mass agitations of workers at the rally, the labour leaders only made a verbal call on the government to implement the wage. On the contrary, the leaders spared no effort to sing the praises of the government and its anti-worker policies like OYES programme.
However, the greatest shock to the governor and his labour praise singers was when the workers walked out on the governor while he was delivering his speech. The workers, who had besieged the governor’s podium, were expecting him to make a positive proclamation on the minimum wage. On the contrary, the governor was claiming, among other lies, to be the only one paying N19, 000 in the country (ostensibly referring to the least paid civil servants who are collecting a meager N19, 001, which does not apply to other workers of higher status). This was greeted with shout of “No” from workers, who immediately worked out en mass on the governor. The speech was abruptly ended on this basis.
Workers were immediately calling for congress while leaving the venue. The labour leaders were so embarrassed that they could not make a statement on this action. They must have probably been appeasing the ego of the governor for the militant action of the workers, as they were seen conversing with the governor after the show. Of course, the governor could not leave the venue until the majority of the workers left.
By Ojo Olajire
What should have been a day to demand for the improved conditions of workers was turned to celebration and praise-singing of the governor’s works and second term agenda. The workers day in Ondo state was held at Gani Fawehinmi Solidarity Centre, Igbatoro, Akure.
The programme started at about 10:45 when the state governor and other top government officials arrived. In fact the podium was filled with members of state house of assembly, commissioners and etc. The reason for this is that Ondo state is having its governorship election in November and government used the avenue to canvass for workers support.
Unlike previous years where informal sector workers had few unions, this year it was observed that other informal sector union unions participated such as Association of Wine and Beer Parlours Owners, Beer Retailers Association etc. Over 5,000 workers were in attendance just to come and perform the yearly ritual.
Before the labour leaders’ speeches (NLC and TUC), and governor’s address, was march past of workers of various unions. The march past appeared to be a show of customized dress and competition among unions. No placard\demand was raised on issue affecting workers, all just kept quiet as if all is fine.
Our Socialist Democracy (SD), Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and Joint Action Front (JAF) leaflets were the only materials sold and distributed at venue. The SPN leaflet is like a seed that will germinate in the coming period because of the warm reception of workers towards it.
By Abbey Trotsky
The Oyo State was not left out among states in the country where the state Chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and their ally in Trade Union Congress (TUC) had joined workers all over the world to organize a commemorative ceremony to mark this year international workers day. In Oyo state, the May Day celebration was separately organized by both the NLC and TUC at Obafemi Awolowo Stadium and Lekan Salami Stadium both in Ibadan, the state capital of Oyo State respectively. Unlike, last year when such an occasion was jointly organized between the two existing labour centres in the state.
At Obafemi Awolowo Stadium where DSM comrades intervened, many members of various unions who appeared in T-shirts of different colours and designs which distinguished one union from another begin to come into the venue of the Mayday as early as 8am. In a similar vein, comrades of Oyo State chapter of DSM who had arrived at the venue early enough before the major event kicked off, equally displayed our banner as well as materials like Socialist Democracy (SD), special leaflet produced by Oyo Chapter of DSM on minimum wage; “Join Us” leaflet of Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), register for intending members, etc at a special stand placed at the entrance of the stadium while some of the materials were also taken around the stadium.
However, following the arrival of the NLC executives, the activities were officially flagged off around 9am with a march past by various unions in attendance. Comrades of DSM also participated in the match past.
Despite the fact that this year Mayday coincided with a critical period that Oyo State public sector workers and the state government were at the loggerhead over the non-implementation of N18, 000 minimum wage, none of the unions/associations that participated in the match past raised any placard that carry any inscription or slogan that denounce the anti-worker character of the Ajimobi-led administration. Except DSM comrades who carried placards with inscriptions and slogans like Oyo state should pay N18000 minimum wage now!, No to Privatization of public utilities, NLC should unionize YES O workers now!, etc. The “YES O” is a scheme, versioned after “O YES” in Osun state, in which poorly paid youths are engaged as casual workers and not allowed to join trade union.
It is quite understandable why none of the union was able to raise any issue on the minimum wage. For instance more than 80% of unions and associations that participated in the match past were from either private or informal sector. Given the fact that, these categories of workers are not in position to directly benefit from N18, 000 minimum wage, their attitude for not raising any slogan that pertain to the implementation of N18, 000 minimum wage is therefore not accidental.
Similarly, unions like NUT, NULGE etc whose members comprise of public service workers could not also raise demand for the immediate implementation of the N18, 000 minimum wage because they were actually mandated by the state NLC executive to be represented strictly by the branch secretaries and chairmen of their respective union. These union officials are usually stooges and conscious defenders of the bureaucratic apparatus of the state labour leadership who have compromised the minimum wage struggle.
In fact, the conduct of the labour leaders at the Mayday showed that they did not want anything to be raised on minimum wage. This explains why there were attempts to stop the DSM comrades who were set with placards to participate in the match past.
However, there is no doubt that slogans raised by DSM comrades during their participation in the match past perfectly captured the expectations and aspirations of few workers who attended the occasion. This was reflected in the dramatic change in the attitude of some of the workers toward buying copies of DSM publication- Socialist Democracy (SD).
For instance, before the match past the total number of SD sold were not up to 10 copies but this suddenly increased to 65 within 30minutes after the participation of DSM comrades in the match past. Similarly, not fewer than 6 workers including a member of YES O scheme put down their names and contacts as intending members of both the DSM and Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN).
After the match past, various speeches and solidarity messages were delivered by some of the labour leaders and labour activists who attended the Mayday. Notably among these speeches was the one of Bashiru Olarenwaju, the state chairman of NLC, who remarkably failed to raise anything on the lingering minimum wage crisis in the state. This was not different from various speeches of other speakers who in their conclusion also gave a false impression that workers and employers of labour can co-operate to guarantee an industrial harmony.
However, the most impressive among the speeches was that of the Oyo State coordinator of Joint Action Front (JAF), Dr Demola Aremu, who insisted in his conclusion that Oyo state government has more than enough resources at its disposal to implement N18,000 minimum wage for its entire workforce. He therefore calls on the labour leaders and the rank and file not to be deceived by various unfounded arguments of the state government to justify its undue refusal.