Minimum Wage Struggle – What Next?
Minimum Wage Struggle â€“ What Next?
After more than a year after the last strike, workers in Osun State under the two umbrella unions – NLC and TUC – have restarted agitation for the implementation of the nationally legislated N18, 000 minimum wage. As at Thursday, 31st January, 2013, three congresses of workers have been held in the state capital. The DSM has made interventions in two of these congresses with stalls, our “Socialist Democracy” paper and leaflets. At the two congresses attended by members of the organization, the anger of workers against the government could be easily felt. Indeed, at the last Congress, workers were raising the political question, which led to our SPN banner attracting many workers. Of course, some workers were asking about the whereabouts of the Labour Party. One hundred copies of SPN leaflets were circulated and were well received by workers. Over 30 copies of our current paper have been sold while over 40 copies of a special pamphlet which x- rayed the Osun State government, produced more than a year ago were also sold. The Congress continues next Thursday with the prospect of a strike action. Below is a copy of the statement/leaflet issued by the SPN.
Minimum Wage Struggle in Osun State: The Struggle must Continue
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), Osun State welcomes the latest resolve of the workers in Osun State to restart the struggle for the implementation of the N18, 000 minimum wage. We in SPN urge workers to undertake the struggle to a logical conclusion. More importantly is the need for workers and the leadership of the trade union movement in the state to adopt the most radical tactics that will ensure victory to workers. Workers must mobilize for an immediate strike action across all levels in the state if the Aregbesola government refuses to yield to their demands.
The failure of the Aregbesola-led/ACN government to implement fully the N18, 000 minimum wage has again knocked a big hole in the so-called progressive nature of the government. It has shown that the government, the Aregbesola government, despite all its grandstanding, is nothing different from the previous anti-poor, anti-worker regimes of Oyinlola/PDP and Bisi Akande/AD. This is clearly reflected in the failed attempt of the government to use the National Industrial Court to stop workers from gaining a little improvement in their poor wages. It will be recalled that the Osun State government, some months ago, had dragged workers before the National Industrial Court, seeking to make implementation of the minimum wage for workers at all levels illegal. However, this attempt failed as the court ordered the government to implement the agreement it signed with the workers on minimum wage.
This agreement, freely entered into by the government, mandates that the government implements the minimum wage for all categories of workers, when the state revenue improves. According to workers, who are of course in the best position to know, the revenue of the state has more than significantly improved with up to 100 percent increase in revenue for more than a year now. However, the government has refused to implement the wage agreement, despite rising cost of living occasioned by hike in fuel price and prices of other basic commodities. Worse still, the rise in revenue has not reflected in fundamental improvement in living conditions of the people of the state. Tens of thousands are still employed on the OYES scheme with poor wages and terrible working conditions. The excuse of the state government that it cannot pay workers better wages because of its imaginary developmental projects are clearly unfounded as political office holders that are mostly redundant are paid emoluments that are in multiples of workers’ wages. More importantly, no sensible government will want to develop society with a workforce that is poorly remunerated.
For Scientific Tactics that Guarantee Total Victory
We enjoin workers and the leadership of the trade unions to adopt scientific methods that will ensure that this current campaign leads to fundamental improvement in the living conditions of workers. While the calling of congresses by the leadership is welcome, this should be made more frequent and should be replicated at local levels with workers organizing at local levels and building Struggle Committees. Such committees will ensure that the struggle is well coordinated. Rallies, protest marches and publication of educative materials like regular bulletins, leaflets, posters, etc (to update workers and educate the public on the demands of workers) must be undertaken.
Furthermore, workers need to reach out to other sections of the working and poor people to explain their struggle to them and build alliances with them with the aim of uniting the working and poor people, against attempt by government to divide the oppressed people through ridiculous tactics. Very important in this task is the need for workers to link the demands of other oppressed people with their as a way to mobilizing them behind a collective banner. For instance, workers need to demand full employment with adequate working conditions for the OYES volunteers, as a way of uniting their demand with that of workers, and preventing government from using them to break workers’ struggle. Workers must also demand free and quality education at all levels. Workers must also demand that no worker must lose his or her job as a result of the implementation of the minimum wage.
The Need for Working Class Government
The failure of the Aregbesola/ACN government in Osun State to implement the N18, 000 minimum wage, which is a meagre improvement in workers wages, again reflects the anti-poor, anti-worker character of this government despite its claim to progressivism. Just like the federal government, other state governments, and capitalist political parties, the Aregbesola/ACN government is committed to neo-liberal capitalist policies that ensure that more money go the coffer of the already rich few, while the majority of the working and poor people are made to live in poverty. This is clearly reflected in the elitist projects undertaken by the government, more so at exorbitant costs and borrowed funds, while the basic needs of the people: free and quality education and healthcare, good wages for workers, secure and decent employment for all able-bodied citizens, etc, are left unattended to.
This underscores the need for workers to build their own political platform to contend for power with the current set of anti-poor, pro-rich parties at all levels. Working and poor people need a party that will put public resources to public needs: free and quality education and healthcare, living wages for workers, massive development of social and public infrastructures (mass public housing scheme, potable water supply, transport development, etc), provision of secure and decent employment for all citizens, etc. These programmes can be easily implemented if society’s resources and wealth are put under democratic public ownership of workers and the poor people. It will also mean that political office holders will collect average wages of civil servants. With this, public resources going to the rich few and big businesses will be liberated for pro-poor, pro-workers’ programmes. This is what the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) stands for. Consequently, we call on workers and the poor people to join us in building a strong working class political alternative that will serve as a genuine opposition to the parties of the few millionaires and billionaires looters who are holding millions of Nigerians in poverty.