PLANNED REMOVAL OF NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE FROM THE EXCLUSIVE LIST
PLANNED REMOVAL OF NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE FROM THE EXCLUSIVE LIST
Labour Must Commence Mobilization For A 48hours Strike On Non Implementation Of N18,000 Minimum Wage
By Abbey Trotsky
Since 2013, there have been deliberations and debates at both the lower and upper house of the national assembly on its plan to remove the national minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list. This debate recently attracted more public concern particularly that of the workers in the public service when members of Senate regardless of political affiliations reaffirmed that there is no going back in the plan to remove the national minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list.
The exclusive legislative list is an aspect of Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria that comprises of 68 items which can only be legislated upon by the federal government. Notably among these items is the national minimum wage act. Therefore, if the minimum wage is transferred from exclusive legislative list to concurrent list which comprises of items that can be legislated upon by both the state and federal government, it will mean that states across the country will no longer exist under any obligation to comply with any minimum wage act enacted by the national assembly.
Under the concurrent list, every state will be empowered to enact its own minimum wage act through its state house of assembly. The implication of this will be that, workers’ collective bargaining power will be completely undermined. Therefore, open-up a wider opportunity for various anti-workers governments currently existing across the state in the country to ensure that workers in their respective states are continued to be kept under a poverty wage. This is not unlikely, going by the present attitude of all the state government including the federal government towards the 2011 minimum wage act which was signed into law since 25th March, 2011.
Some state government have not only failed to implement the 2011 minimum wage act which stipulate minimum wage to be N18,000 but have also sacked thousands of workers based on some flimsy excuse just to intimidate workers and douse their determination to fight for the unconditional implementation of the paltry N18,000 minimum wage. This was the case in Oyo State where over 7,000 workers were sacked by the government controlled by the so called opposition All progressive party (APC).
It should be noted that state governments have refused the implementation of a paltry N18, 000 minimum wage at a period they are under the obligation to do so and economy was relatively buoyant through the sale of crude oil around $114 per barrel. Therefore, it does not require the gift of clairvoyance to know that, once the same state governments are given power to determine the minimum wage for workers in their state; they will not hesitate to legislate minimum wage that will be much lower than the current N18, 000 especially now that the price of crude oil has dropped to $85 per barrel.
Therefore considering various negative consequences the removal of the minimum wage act from exclusive legislative list, we of Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) welcome and support the plan by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to resist this anti-worker plan of the Nigeria ruling elites.
Unfortunately, any call by labour for mass action solely on the plan to remove minimum wage from the exclusive list now will be most likely trailed by mass skepticism, even among civil servants let alone workers in private sectors and some pro-labour activists. This is due to the unsatisfactory way the labour leaders both at the state and national level had handled some struggles in the past.
For instance on July 20th 2011, the proposed strike backed with mass actions for the unconditional implementation of N18, 000 minimum wage which had been mobilized for and planned to begin was arbitrarily cancelled at the midnight. In addition to this is the January 2012 struggle against the fuel price hike which was also arbitrary terminated by the labour leaders even when mass of the working people were still ready to carry on with the struggle. All this is in addition to situations in various states across the federation where the state labour leadership went ahead to connive with their respective state government to negotiate ridiculous amount far below the minimum wage for their workers.
In view of this, we therefore call on the labour to go beyond scratching the surface by naming days for a 48 hours warning strike backed up with mass action and immediately start a conscious mobilization of workers against not just the senate attempt to make minimum wage voluntary for government and private sector but also to demand, as a start, the full implementation of the existing 2011 national minimum wage for all categories of workers and against the plan to hike the fuel price again under the pretence of removing the so-called fuel subsidy. Furthermore this should be the beginning of a campaign for a real living minimum wage. It is high time labour started serious fight for the N52,200 minimum it agreed to demand in December 2008. Despite six years of inflation, achieving this demand would mean a dramatic improvement in the lives of millions.
Towards this, labour must begin holding mass meetings with workers and pro-labour activists to assure them of their commitment to struggle as part of the preparation for the suggested strike which should also include mass rallies and circulation of educating materials like posters and leaflets. This is we hope the interest and support of workers who have benefitted little or nothing from the current minimum wage can be inspired in a struggle against the planned scrapping of national minimum wage.
Also, we call on the NLC and TUC not to be carried away by the purported assurance from the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives that the minimum wage has not been removed from the exclusive list. This is to halt the labour plan to resist the removal. Even if the minimum wage is yet to be removed, it could mean that, it has been tentatively delayed till after the 2015 general election before it will be finally removed.
One major lesson workers, youths, the entire working masses, particularly the labour leaders, must learn from all this is that the governments that exist across the country today are anti-poor. It is in view of this that we of SPN warn that labour needs a fighting leadership that has no illusions that a section of the thieving ruling elites and their neo-liberal philosophy can be a better partner in a bid to ensure that economic aspiration of the working people is satisfied.
In light of this, SPN is quick to reiterate that the labour leadership should initiate the process to form and build a mass working people political party based on socialist programme. Such government formed by this party will consider it a priority to nationalize the commanding heights of the economy and placed under workers democratic control and management. This will help to liberate resources that will ensure that the need and aspirations of mass of poor working people in the society is adequately catered for. But, if the existing labour leadership will not take such a step, the SPN will not hold back from its activity to help lay the basis for such a party.