N30,000 MINIMUM WAGE: LABOUR WOULD HAVE WON MORE INCREMENT FOR WORKERS IF IT HAD MOBILISED WORKERS FOR MASS STRUGGLE
LABOUR MUST EMBARK ON MASS ACTIONS AGAINST ALL ANTI-PEOPLE POLICIES TO FIGHT FOR A BETTER LIVING STANDARD OF WORKERS AND THE MASSES
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) considers the fact that it took the federal government five months, after signing the minimum wage bill into law, to reach agreement with Labour on the consequential wage adjustment as a testament to the insincerity of Buhari government about improving the welfare of Nigerian workers. The new adjustment as agreed are: 23 percentage increase for workers at grade level 07; 20 percentage increment for those at grade level 08; 19 percentage increment for workers at grade level 09; 16 percentage increment for workers at grade level 10 to 14; and 14 percentage increment for workers at grade levels 15 to 17.
These percentage increments are welcome but they fall far short of addressing the rising cost of living. For instance, the rising cost of rice alone is enough to wipe out a large portion of the increment let alone rising cost of other consumable items put together. Hike in electricity tariff of about 40%, hike in VAT of about 66%, the reintroduction of toll gate and rising cost of other consumables will not only undermine the wage adjustment, it will weaken the purchasing power of the working masses and deepen the level of poverty. It is a case of winning a marginal increment in wage and at the same time losing it through anti-people neo-liberal policies.
The labour leaders were quick to celebrate the agreement but in reality, the agreement is a step forward and three steps backward considering the fact that labour has failed to challenge government’s anti-people policies that render any increment in salaries useless even in short term. The labour leadership lacks an alternative pro-working people programme to government’s rabid pro-rich capitalist policies. This is so because the labour leaders subscribe to the same iniquitous capitalist system that makes it impossible to defend workers’ interests on a sustainable basis.
We hold that government’s claim that there is a lack of funds to pay workers better wages is unfounded, Nigeria is enormously rich in natural and human resources but the reason for the mass poverty is adherence to capitalist programme including the implementation of pro-rich policies such as the payment of outrageous emolument to political office holders, cuts in public spending, implementation of corrupt contract system, privatisation and deregulation of major public corporations, commercialisation and privatisation of education and health care, exploitation of workers etc.
We condemn the approach of labour leaders which seems to mean that the consequential wage adjustment agreement with the federal government is not applicable to state workers despite labour being on exclusive legislative list. The state labour leaderships are expected to renegotiate with their respective state governors. This is a recipe for chaos and arbitrariness in the implementation as the state governments who have already been talking about lack of funds would offer something which is much worse than the federal government adjustment agreement. For instance, the labour leaders’ refusal to fight for the implementation of the N18,000 minimum wage gave governors the opportunity to refuse its implementation and even owed backlog of salaries, and this is likely to repeat itself given labour’s attitude towards the N30,000 minimum wage. The renegotiations at the state levels will be long, tedious and will give governors the leeway to either pay a more ridiculous increment with the option to retrench or refuse to pay any increment.
We call on leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress to initiate centrally coordinated struggles and actions that will ensure workers at all levels including at state and private sector benefit for the new minimum wage agreement without retrenchment of workers.
History has shown clearly that all concessions that have been won was due to workers embarking on struggle and mass actions; it was the mass protest that forced the government to pass the minimum wage bill into law; it was the threat of a general strike that forced the government to increase the percentage being offered from 11% to about 20% within two weeks, something that could not be achieved within six months of sterile negotiations. It will be better imagined what the trade union movement would have achieved if they had embarked on warning general strike, mass mobilisation and actions to fight for living wage, jobs and against all anti-people policies.
We also hold that the struggle for the implementation of minimum wage will only have any meaningful impact if it is linked with struggle for adequately funded quality public education and health care, against rising cost of food items, against hike in electricity tariff and VAT, for the creation of mass jobs and public funded basic amenities.
Therefore, the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) hereby calls on the trade union leaders to begin the mobilisation of workers and ordinary people for a 48-hour warning general strike and mass actions for full implementation of the new minimum wage and payment of salary arrears at all levels, against rising cost of living and for reduction of jumbo salaries and allowances of political office holders to that of skilled civil service workers. The strike should also demand a reversal of anti-people peoples such as electricity tariff hike, road tolling and VAT as well as adequate public funding of education, healthcare and basic amenities. We also call on working people and youth as well as pro-masses’ organisations to organize a series of activities around those demands and also echo our call on trade union leadership to call a warning strike and mass protest.
Acting National Chairperson