2016 MAY DAY: SPN Message
2016 MAY DAY: SPN Message
SPN FELICITATES WITH NIGERIAN WORKERS
THE LABOUR MOVEMENT MUST LEAD THE WORKING PEOPLE OUT OF THIS SOCIO-ECONOMIC CRISIS
- Only Struggle Can Win N56, 000 Minimum Wage
- A 24-hour General Strike and Mass Protest is Long Overdue!
- Socialist Change is the only Genuine Change
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) felicitates with Nigerian workers as they celebrate Workers’ Day. We identify with the struggles of Nigerian workers for better living and working conditions. This year’s May Day is taking place at a period of monumental suffering for the vast working masses as the fall in world oil prices worsens the impact of the growing cost of living, perennial fuel scarcity, power outages, unpaid salaries, poor wage, unemployment etc. The Buhari government does not only appear clueless in responding to these problems, the continued implementation of pro-rich policies has made it impossible to resolve these problems in the interest of the working class. Hence, we enjoin workers, their unions and the labour leadership to use this occasion of May Day to reflect on the parlous state of the nation, and rededicate themselves to the struggle for total emancipation of the working and oppressed people of Nigeria. May Day itself is borne out of the global struggle of the working people against the horrible living and working conditions occasioned by capitalist exploitation.
NAME THE DATE FOR A GENERAL STRIKE NOW!
Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) welcomes the decision of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to embark on a one-day warning general strike to press home the demand for the reversal of the electricity tariff hike and to express opposition to the lingering scarcity of petroleum products etc. We call on NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to immediately name dates for the action and convoke a national mass meeting of labour, pro-labour organizations, community organizations, students and other social groups to discuss how to prosecute and deepen this struggle. This kind of mass meetings should be replicated at the state, local government and community levels. From these mass meetings, action committees should be created to ensure adequate mobilization of the people for compliance and for mass participation in the strike and mass rallies as steps in a ongoing struggle.
The federal government, through the NERC and the Distribution Companies, has brazenly increased electricity tariff by between 45% and 60% despite epileptic power supply and rising poverty. The reality is that the working masses cannot afford this hike and it must be reversed. The Buhari government and the power companies have flagrantly disobeyed a subsisting court order given by Justice Idris of the Federal High Court against tariff hike, which is an indication that what we have is rule of the mighty.
The power companies (Distribution Companies and Generating Companies) have shown obvious incapacity to develop the sector on a sustainable manner such that will increase output and adequate distribution to the electricity consumers. Despite selling most of the power sector infrastructure at rock-bottom price to the so-called investors and supporting them with a N50billion bailout, electricity supply has deteriorated further. Power facilities and infrastructure are decaying and getting obsolete without replacement and maintenance. The Distribution Companies have deliberately refused to issue pre-paid meters to all consumers that need them because it is money spinning and more exploitative to issue outrageous estimated billing on a massive scale.
Currently, virtually all communities have been thrown into darkness and yet they continue to force electricity consumers to pay the outrageous tariff and mostly on an estimated basis! This clearly shows the obvious failure of privatization of the sector. Hence, the mass opposition to the tariff hike must include a demand for the reversal of the privatization of the power sector which entails re-nationalization of the sector. However, taking the power sector into public ownership is not enough to guarantee affordable and uninterrupted power supply. It will require democratic control and management by elected representatives of workers, experts, consumers, communities at all levels to plan and massively invest in the sector to guarantee affordable and uninterrupted power supply while stamping out corruption.
On the other hand, the Buhari government just like previous governments has demonstrated clearly that it is incapable of resolving the perennial scarcity of petroleum products. Currently, many people buy fuel as much as N150/N200 per litre if they are lucky to buy. The reason is simply because the importation and distribution of petroleum products are heavily dominated by profit and private interest which invariably comes into conflict with the interests of the mass of Nigerians.
Under the present order/system, getting fuel and other petroleum products must come at a cost that will only guarantee huge profit for the big and small oil marketers, the multinational oil companies, the top bureaucrats within the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and oil sector. This is the main reason the four local refineries are deliberately sabotaged and made to continually work abysmally. It also explains why no new public refinery has been built despite huge resources at the disposal of government since the return to civil rule in 1999. Just like the experience in the power sector, the complete deregulation and privatization of the downstream oil sector and NNPC will worsen an already bad situation and the NLC and TUC must resist this anti-poor plan. The labour movement should use the mass movement/strike as a mobilizing step in demanding and struggling for the nationalization of the oil sector and its placement under democratic control and management of the workers, experts and consumers/communities to block looting and ensure transparency, efficiency in the availability and affordability of petroleum products, functional refineries along with an adequate distribution infrastructure.
N56,000 NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE!
We welcome the recent decision of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to demand the new national minimum wage of N56, 000. We hold that this is long overdue. The rising cost of living and inflation have eroded the earnings of workers and the masses. Besides the fact that the current N18, 000 minimum wage has been largely rendered worthless the minimum wage has been statutorily due for review since 2015. This is why we always call on labour to demand and fight for periodic increases in wages to match the rate of inflation. Despite the fact that the current wage is very low, the governments at all levels have refused to fully implement this poverty minimum wage of N18, 000 for the past 5 years. To compound the economic problems of workers, most state and local governments owe workers backlog of salaries.
To add insult to injury, political office holders are earning jumbo allowances and salaries such that about N18, 000 political office holders earn jumbo allowances and salaries of about N1.3 trillion – more than the federal budget allocated to education, health, agriculture, power, housing and works put together. For instance, some former state governors who are currently in the National Assembly and serving Ministers are earning two jumbo salaries and allowances. Sam Amadi, the former Chairman of NERC earned N400 million as gratuity for just serving as Chairman of NERC for 5 years whereas many civil servants do not earn up to N5 million as gratuity after working for 25 years.
Labour must also demand the reduction of the outrageous earnings of political office holders to the average wage of skilled workers and the savings derived should be invested in basic infrastructure to create more jobs.
However, the leadership of the NLC and TUC must note that without struggles they cannot win the demand for N56, 000 minimum wage. Trade unionists must learn from what happened the last time the minimum wage was reviewed. Back in December 2010 both the NLC and TUC demanded a N52, 200 minimum wage, but then a few months later they accepted Goodluck Jonathan’s N18, 000. This must not happen again with labour’s new demand for N56, 000.
We therefore call on the labour leadership to rapidly begin a series of mass activities to mobilise the support of workers and the public for the new minimum wage alongside their demand for the convocation of tripartite meetings of government, private employers and labour to discuss the demand. Also importantly, the national labour leadership must combine the struggle for a new minimum wage with a firm opposition to retrenchments, clear demands on the state governments for settlement of all unpaid salaries and pensions, an end to half salaries and regular and future prompt payment of salaries. Winning these demands will require the active mobilization of labour’s grass roots both to mobilize support and to counter any backsliding by those labour leaders willing to abandon labour’s demands.
EXPLOITATION AND CASUALIZATION
Casualization is widespread in the private sector. Private employers capitalize on the economic crisis to further exploit those working and drive down wages. From manufacturing to banking, oil and gas exploration and distribution, insurance and financial sector, casual and part-time employments have become the order of the day. In the banking sector, there is unprecedented job insecurity as unreasonable targets are set for workers thus often leading to mass sack. In various factories from Lagos to Aba, Kano, etc., tens of thousands of workers are working under terrible conditions that take better parts of their health and agility. In many of these factories, aside the poor wage and insecurity of jobs, there are health hazards that are hardly challenged by government, and worse still labour leaders.
To add insult to injury, governments that are supposed to stop these horrible situations better associated with the 19th century Victorian era, are now taking cue from private employers, to carry out casualization of jobs and poor pay in the public service.
THE WAY OUT OF THIS CAPITALIST CRISIS
How best to defend workers socio-economic and political interest amidst growing exploitation should form major point of discourse for workers and trade union leaders, beyond marching in front of their exploiters, as we commemorate this year’s Workers’ Day. It is however necessary to state that behind these horrible living and working conditions of workers is the capitalist system which sole aim is the maximization of profits for the privileged few at the expense of the vast majority. Neo-liberal policies of privatization, deregulation etc., engender the lowering of the living standards of working people thus reducing their share of the value they create. The governments at all levels in Nigeria represent and defend the capitalists interest, both local and foreign, who control the economy and politics. They fund these parties and have representatives in them.
Buhari’s government, despite the CHANGE and anti-corruption sloganeering, has shown that it is not fundamentally different from the previous government in terms of policy thrust and direction; this government represent and defends the rich while abandoning the poor. The hike in electricity tariff and perennial scarcity of petroleum products buttresses this point. The working class cannot rely on any of the ruling parties and needs now to clearly offer its own alternative policies, otherwise there is the danger of the growth of divisions amongst working people. This underscores the need for workers to build their unions as fighting platforms against attacks by the capitalist class organized as governments and private employers. This means workers ensuring their unions are truly independent from employers and are run on democratic basis such that workers’ views are sought on issues that affect them through regular congresses and mass meetings.
For decades, capitalism has failed to develop Nigeria, now in a crisis period engendered by an extremely unstable world economy plus the neo-liberal market policies of privatization and deregulation, Nigeria will be thrown further into more crises. Such crises show more crudely how capitalist profit drives production and exchange at the expense of basic needs of the vast majority of the toiling working masses. The only way forward is a democratic socialist society that plans production and exchange to meet the needs of all. And, this entails nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy including the oil, banking, steel, aviation, power etc., and massive investment in social infrastructure and industries to create jobs and meet the needs of all and these investments and the major companies must be placed under the democratic control and management of the working people.
The Labour Party that was formed by the NLC has been left to anti-poor capitalist politicians to run as a second-eleven of the major capitalist parties. The NLC has now stopped even talking about “reclaiming” that party and this further explains why a new party has to be formed. Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) was formed by working class activists and socialists in the absence of a mass working class party to defend the socio-economic and political interest of the working masses. We are calling on workers, traders, students, artisans, transporters, the unemployed etc., to join the SPN and become active in it. Together with building the SPN, socialists and activists will continue to call on labour to form and build a mass working class political party that will not only defeat the pro-rich parties (APC, PDP, Labour Party etc.,) but work towards transforming the country to meet the needs of all.
On and after May Day 2016 workers, labour leaders and unions should struggle for:
- Immediate action to strengthen the trade unions, aiming to unionise all workers; massive picketing of companies and industries engaging in casualization and other anti-labour practices.
- An immediate end to all wage and pension arrears. Opposition to retrenchments. Demand for N56,000 minimum wage subject to periodic increase in line with the rate of inflation
- Fighting for the re-nationalization of all public owned privatized companies and subjecting them to democratic management by workers, experts and consumers. Reversing the privatization of power sector.
- Building of a genuine mass working class political party armed with a program of public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under a working people democratic control to enable the country’s resources to be utilized in the interests of the vast majority and not the profits of the few.