SPN CONDEMNS STATE GOVERNMENTS OWING WORKERS’ SALARIES; DEMANDS IMMEDIATE PAYMENT
SPN CALLS ON THE NLC TO DECLARE A ONE-DAY WARNING STRIKE WITH MASS ACTIONS
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) condemns all state governments that owe workers backlog of salaries. Hence, we demand immediate payment of all outstanding salaries owed to workers in all the 27 culpable states. These states owe between 3 and 7 months in salary arrears.
It is worrisome that government at all levels prioritises the payment of questionable debts owed to bourgeois contractors and financial houses arising from inflated contracts and loans that mostly benefited friends and collaborators of key political office holders far ahead of workers’ salaries. The pattern is for the banks to deduct huge sums of money as first line charge to the state revenues and these guarantees the interest of few privileged persons ahead of the suffering working masses. Workers are creditors to the state as well and need to be paid as at well due. SPN demands a public probe of all contracts and loans by elected panel of workers, pro-labour organisations and other social groups to enable the public ascertain the genuine nature of these heavy debt burdens.
It is true that the petro-dollar has suffered a setback due to the fall in oil price, but the self-serving interest of the ruling elite, the sustenance of the over bloated privileges and protection of private profit over public interest is responsible for the difficulty in paying workers’ salaries as at when due. For instance, Nigeria’s political office holders are some of the highest paid in the world while Nigerian workers are amongst some of the poorest paid in the world. The SPN has always advocated the reduction of jumbo salaries and allowances of political office holders to the tune of skilled civil service workers and the savings channeled towards provision of infrastructure and this would be one of the cardinal political programmes of SPN when in power. As opposed to the chaos of capitalist Nigeria it is only when political offices are made unattractive combined with the implementation of socialist policies that will usher in sustainable socio-economic and political development.
The SPN is also advocating for massive investment in agriculture, infrastructure and industry as the only way to get out of these economic crisis created by long term implementation of anti-poor and neo-liberal policies of privatization, deregulation, commercialization etc. Massive investment in agriculture alone can feed Nigerians far cheaper than what we have now, earn huge foreign exchange and support industrialization. The paltry budgetary allocation to agriculture by the federal government (About N50 billion is allocated to the capital aspect of agriculture in the 2016 federal budget) and the respective states shows the triviality in the much talked diversification of the economy. But all this can only be achieved on the basis of the democratically planned use of Nigeria’s resources once they are taken out of the hands of capitalists, foreign and Nigerian, who exploit them for their own profit. The dependence on a very backward and weak private sector to drive the economy will further weaken the ailing economy and create more joblessness.
We also condemn the attack on seven Oyo State leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and activists by the Ajimobi-led APC government. This attack, that led to the arrest and detention of these labour leaders at the Agodi Prison, undermines working peoples’ rights to freedom of speech and assembly, we note that looters, particularly those linked to governing parties, are hardly ever imprisoned. Ajimobi-led APC government attack could be a bad example for other states government to follow if the labour movement does not respond adequately. We welcome the response of the Oyo state NLC as well as the Ayuba Wabba-led NLC by declaring an indefinite strike in Oyo State that has linked the rejection of the planned school privatization with the demand for payment about 6 months arrears of salaries and pensions. We also commend the mass protest of pupils of public schools in response of the planned privatization of some of public schools in Oyo state.
In addition to Oyo state, workers in Ekiti and Ondo states have also embarked on indefinite strike action over unpaid salaries while Bayelsa workers have just recently resumed work after a strike that lasted for three days but achieved little. Altogether, about 27 states are affected by the issue of unpaid salaries. The Ekiti, Ondo and Oyo strikes must be supported and not left isolated. This has necessitated the need for a nationally coordinated action by the national leadership of NLC and TUC to aggregate individual strikes and anger in all the affected states. We therefore call for a one-day national public sector warning strike combined with a series of mass actions as the next step which could be later escalated into general strike after a series of effective mass mobilization activities.
The struggle over unpaid salaries must also be linked by the NLC with mobilization of mass support for the new minimum wage demand of N56,000 given the rising cost of living. The N18,000 minimum wage is not only a poverty wage, it is also due for review.
The SPN is also calling for the unity of the trade union movement to enable it respond adequately to the widespread attacks on the living condition of the working class. A divided trade union movement is a weak one! Regardless of the factionalisation arising from the last NLC delegate conference, if the trade union leaders are sincere, they should unite in response to every attack irrespective of the workers or union directly affected while trade union activists should strive to build unity in action at every possible level.