N30,000 Minimum Wage: Most state governments set to violate the Minimum Wage Act
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) wishes to alert the labour movement to the fact that anti-worker state governors are planning to violate the minimum wage act by refusing to fully implement the new national minimum wage of N30, 000 which was recently signed into law by the Federal government. This was clearly revealed by a recent statement credited to Governor Kayode Fayemi, the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), who said the national minimum wage is not a “general wage”. By this statement, Governor Kayode Fayemi is trying to make excuse for his anti-worker colleagues in the Governors Forum who habitually owe their workers several months of salary backlogs thus creating anguish, death and sorrow for working families.
The only way to foil their plan is for the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Labour Congress (ULC) to be prepared to declare a nationally-coordinated action, including strike action and mass struggles, to compel the governors to implement the national minimum wage of N30, 000 fully and without retrenchment. To this extent, we applaud the decision of the national leadership of the NLC to monitor minimum wage negotiation at the state level. This is very crucial given the fact that many of these anti-poor state governors are already owing backlogs of the previous N18, 000 national minimum wage. While monitoring the negotiation, the labour leadership must be ready to back any action taken by the state union leadership through solidarity actions of Nigerian workers nationally.
As we all know, the minimum wage struggle has been concluded at the national level, though with little gains to show for it. The struggle at the state levels will be more intense because many state governments will refuse to implement the wage consequential adjustment or will most likely want to pay a lower/ridiculous consequential adjustment. The threat of a general strike jolted the Buhari-led government to agree to 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. Labour must demand the implementation of the minimum wage as agreed to begin in April 2019 at all levels of government and without retrenchment.
While an important victory, the N30, 000 Minimum Wage consequential adjustment as agreed with the federal government will not make any real impact on the living conditions of workers and that is because the labour leaders handled the process like a diplomatic board-room negotiation and not like a struggle to improve the living conditions of workers. A new minimum wage ought to have come into place in January 2016 to replace the N18, 000 minimum wage, but the labour leaders agreed with the government to suspend it due to the recession, something that never affected the rich/political office holders but was only devastating for workers and the poor. And belatedly when an agreement was to be reached, it fell far short of what can address the rising cost of living. Neo-liberal attacks such as 66% hike in VAT, 40% hike in electricity tariff and reintroduction of toll gates will not only wipe out the N30,000 minimum wage, it will sink workers and the poor into more poverty and misery. Labour leaders and the trade union movement must mobilise to defeat all anti-poor programmes.
Labour leaders must also take the minimum wage struggle to the private sector. Most companies do not implement a national minimum wage, particularly as indecent work practices like casualisation, outsourcing jobs, contract staffing etc., have become a norm. About 70% of the workforce in the private sector are casuals/outsourcing staff whose employment is insecure and earn poor wage. The huge chunk of the workforce never benefits from the national wage increment or industry-wide wage improvement. Labour must lead a struggle against casualization and outsourcing.
Labour must change its tactics and strategy from board-room diplomatic negotiation to mass struggle. If the threat of a general strike could force the federal government to reach agreement with Labour within three weeks, something that sterile board room negotiation could not achieve in 5 months, sustained mass actions and general strike would have won much more including sending a message to the government at all levels that Labour will not tolerate any attacks on the living standard of the people.
Considering the widespread violation of the N18, 000 minimum wage, labour will have to mobilise for general strikes and mass actions to engage and force the obstinate state governments to comply. Labour must answer the lies of the ruling elite that there is paucity of funds, it must demand an end to profligacy, jumbo salaries and allowances, ending inflated contract system that has become a conduit pipe for looting public resources.
At the same time if labour does not fight to achieve the reduction of jumbo salaries/allowances of political office holders that is costing the economy over N1.2 trillion to the wage of skilled civil servant, resist all capitalist attacks and fight for a workers and poor people’s government based on the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy under democratic and transparent control of workers and consumers, workers and the poor will continue groin under the exploitation and attacks of the capitalist ruling class.
Comrade Chinedu Bosah