FIGHTING FOR DECENT JOBS
FIGHTING FOR DECENT JOBS
By Ayo Ademiluyi
According to a recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics, the general unemployment rate is 23.9% of the active labour force, an increase of 1.8 million unemployed people between December 2010 and 2011. The case is worse for the young people with about 42 percent of a total population of 67 million youths reportedly unemployed. Officially, aside the 23.9% of Nigerians said to be without jobs, 24 % out of work have tertiary education while 40.2 % are educated to secondary schools level. This, when added to the scary figures provided by Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN), paints a very gloomy picture of the economy which the government and its town criers have otherwise claimed to be among the fastest growing in the world.
According to MAN the capacity utilization of the sector has dropped to 45% and manufacturing employs less than 1 million Nigerians. Up to a million jobs in the leather and allied industries have been lost in Kano State alone. This is aside the mass job loss that attended the near collapse of the textile industry, which used to be the second largest employer of labour after the government.
The above-painted picture shows the deep abyss the capitalist crisis in Nigeria has thrown millions of working masses and youths. This therefore necessitates the need to draw out a clear working class fighting strategy within the labour movement and the entire working masses through which job losses, mass layoffs and unemployment can be fought.
RESISTING MASS LAYOFFS AND UNEMPLOYMENT
The banking sector where over 10,000 workers have lost their jobs since 2009 is among the worst hit by mass layoffs. The big “banksters” are making the workers to pay for the capitalist maelstrom that is currently bedeviling the banking sector. Mainstreet Bank, for example, recently retrenched over 800 workers and paid them only one month’s basic salary, which is about N21,000. In contrast, the Executive Directors that were removed in August 2011 were paid between N100 million and N120 million, while the Managing Director who presided over the collapse of the bank went home with N150 million. The in-house unions in the banking sector have become completely paralysed and are not providing the necessary leadership for the fightback against mass retrenchment in this sector.
Another looming disaster is in the power sector where many workers face mass retrenchment given the ongoing privatization exercise. Unfortunately, the leadership of the in-house union in the sector, Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), which had previously resisted the privatization of PHCN, has now, apparently partly as a result of lack of support from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), conceded to this grand onslaught on jobs disguised with the cloak of power sector reforms. The union has now resorted into fighting for severance pay for their members who will be laid off after the PHCN is sold! The inability of NUEE leadership to remain steadfast in the fight against privatization is not accidental. Rather it is as a result of failure of the leadership of trade unions to adopt a democratic socialist alternative to the capitalist policies of deregulation, privatization and liberalization, which argues and fights for placing the commanding heights of the economy under democratic working class control. The construction industry also has a huge slice of mass lay off. The leaderships of construction unions, NUCECFWW and CCESSA have come forward with the alarm over the rate of job losses in their industry. According to them, over 100,000 workers have been laid off by multinational corporations. These multinationals which enjoy massive patronage from capitalist politicians in government equally operate casual labour and flagrantly disobey labor laws with brutal assault on the environment.
SLAVE LABOUR SCHEMES: ALL ANTI-POOR PARTIES ARE CULPABLE
The appropriate question to ask is what solutions is the ruling capitalist parties advancing in resolving the jobs question. The Goodluck Jonathan â€“led PDP Federal government, on its part came up with a jobs scheme it called YOU-WIN (Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria). The programme is to provide access to credit up to N10 million to Nigerian youth who come up with “fantastic business plans”. This scheme is expected to create something around 80,000 to 110,000 jobs in 3 years. These jobs are to be created through grants received by about 3,600 enterprising youths. This, if it is workable would only result in 110,000 jobs falling short of the 28 million unemployment deficit among youths. This is at best a comical show in resolving a serious monumental crisis.
The underlining philosophy claimed to be behind the YOU-WIN programme of Goodluck Jonathan is that youths must not wait on government for jobs but look to the market. However, with the collapse of the economy, how can the small and medium scale enterprises which are being advocated under the entrepreneurship dogma of the capitalist ruling elite thrive? This just amounts to shying away from the real causes of the unemployment, namely the refusal of the capitalists to invest alongside the collapse of public infrastructure including sound road and rail network, stable power supply and much more, given the destructive neo-liberal capitalist policies of the ruling elite.
On its part, the leading bourgeois opposition party, the Action Congress of Nigeria, offers as a panacea which it calls “youth empowerment schemes”. For instance in Osun State, this is referred to as O-YES (Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme) and in Oyo State as Youth Employment Scheme of Oyo State (YES-O). Under these schemes, thousands of young graduates are employed on the pretext of being incorporated into different sections of the civil service but are eventually assigned menial jobs including cleaning of highways, lawn-cutting without provision of appropriate implements to work with. The O-YES and YES-O members are paid paltry N10,000 per month and taxes are even callously deducted from this poverty wage. Besides, they are not allowed to join trade unions.
The inability of all the ruling class political parties to provide genuine jobs with decent wages further confirms the need for a socialist political programme anchored on a public works programme to put in place every critical infrastructure, thereby generating jobs for every employable person, based on a decent wage. The Socialist Party of Nigeria puts forward this programme and if elected into power will put the collective resources of society under common ownership in order to meet the needs of all.
WORKERS’ MOVEMENT MUST PROVIDE FIGHTING LEADERSHIP
The leadership of the entire workers’ movement and particularly the trade union centres must come forward with a clear-cut fighting strategy to defeat mass layoffs and unemployment. This will demand that the current crop of trade union leaders must jettison their present pro-capitalist outlook and illusions and embrace a clear-cut democratic socialist alternative of fighting for public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under democratic working class control. In alternative, they should be replaced with a genuine clear-headed fighting leadership armed with a sharp socialist programme that can provide solid leadership to the struggle of workers and youth for genuine jobs.
Along this line, the rank-and-file of the trade unions must be prepared to take their struggle beyond the narrow limits of the fight for “severance pay” imposed by bureaucratic leadership and demand the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy under their democratic control. This would require taking initiatives beyond the bureaucratic leadership including factory occupations and mass walk-outs. This can be actualized with direct struggle committees democratically formed by the rank-and-file to take their struggle forward.
This is the only strategy through which the dithering tops in the labour movement can be forced to take up a concerted campaign against mass job layoffs. Such a campaign must be linked with building a mass movement among the unemployed youths. Working class and socialist activists must be prepared to play crucial role in this process and continue to raise these agitations at all levels of the trade union movement.
Yet, the glaring challenge before the rank-and-file and leadership of the workers’ movement is the building of a fighting mass revolutionary working people’s party armed with a socialist programme, which entails democratic and central planning of production by workers based on meeting working people’s needs and not the profit-first greed of a capitalist few. This will eliminate wasteful products which are the norm under capitalism with the employment of latest environmental â€“friendly technology. The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), initiated by the Democratic Socialist Movement, campaigns and stands for this programme in the workers’ movement and will support every genuine effort towards the building of such a mass pan-Nigerian workers’ party