DSM WELCOMES THE RECONCILIATION AND REUNIFICATION OF THE NLC
CALLS FOR THE REBUILDING OF A FIGHTING TRADE UNION MOVEMENT TO RESCUE NIGERIA
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) welcomes the reconciliation and reunification of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). However, we call for sober reflection and the beginning of the conscious rebuilding of the labour movement so as to respond to the yearnings of not just the Nigerian workers but also Nigeria’s suffering masses.
The March 2015 National Delegates’ Conference of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was hotly disputed and became irreconcilable and a faction created. The Joe Ajaero-led grouping eventually formed another trade union centre and pulled out of the NLC in December 2016. The dispute was solely on the elections to key positions of the NLC including the president.
Unfortunately, this dispute or disagreement was not over the difference in ideas, programs and methods with which vibrant trade unions was to be built. This was the reason both labour centres could not agree on a program of action, including when government at all levels and private employers were attacking the rights and living conditions of the working masses.
For instance, when the Buhari-led government increased fuel price and hiked electricity tariff in 2016 and NLC in May 2016 embarked on strike action, the Joe Ajaero-ULC did not extend any solidarity but rather backed government’s phantom palliative programs and the implication of it was a poorly mobilized and executed strike action. Similarly, when the United Labour Congress (ULC) called for a strike in September 2017 demanding a review of the privatization of the power sector, upward review of the minimum wage etc., the Ayuba Wabba-led NLC and the Kaigama-led Trade Union Congress (TUC) did not extend any solidarity and issued a public statement and counter directive for workers not to support the strike and it became a strike action that did not take-off the ground except in few companies. Another pointer was the minimum wage agitation wherein the NLC initially demanded N56,000 minimum wage while the ULC demanded N90,000 minimum wage. This period of weakened trade union movement and lack of serious resistance gave the government, the ruling elite and private employers the opportunity to further attack the interest of workers, while getting away with it.
We would have expected that during the period of dispute/split, the trade union centres would have collaborated in solidarity to defend Nigeria workers and the masses whenever the need arose and resisted all the anti-people policies while working towards united labour unions. But the inability to work together flowed from the fact that the dispute was not on a principled basis and largely arose out of the struggle for who and which wing occupies key positions in the NLC.
The lesson to be learnt is that the trade union needs to be strengthened not only by unity but by program of action that defends the working masses and aimed at rescuing this country from the self-serving ruling elite. Without a concerted effort to resist all attacks, the trade unions will remain weak even if all the trade union centres merge into one. The trade union leaders must come to the realization that the previous and ongoing strategic partnership and alliance with the capitalist ruling elite that largely accommodates neo-liberal philosophy and economic policies is not in the interest of Nigerian workers and masses in general. The trade unions have to be repositioned into a fighting trade union movement armed with socialist programs to be guaranteed of sustainable victories and save the Nigerian workers the agony of sustained attacks.
While we welcome the reunification and reconciliation, we call on the trade union leaders to convoke a conference of trade unions and pro-labour organisations to discuss a fighting program for the labour movement and program of resistance. The mandate of the conference should include to discuss:
- how to defeat casualization and contract staffing,
- Resisting the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry,
- resisting hike in electricity tariff and reversal of power sector privatization,
- End to corrupt contract system and creation of Public Works to actualize mass employment.
- struggle for public funded free and quality education and healthcare,
- reduction of jumbo salaries, allowances and pension of top political office holders to the wage and pension of an average skilled civil servant,
- implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage without retrenchment and to be increased in line with the rising rate of inflation,
- nationalization of the major sectors of the economy (oil and gas, banking, steel, maritime, aviation etc.,) and placed under democratic control and management of workers and consumers.
The starting point is for reunified NLC and TUC to mobilize for a 24-hour warning general strike in response to the hiked petrol prices, hiked electricity tariff and all other neo-liberal economic and political policies. This general strike will entail the organisation of mass meetings, demonstrations and wide circulation of materials.
The reality is that a fighting trade union movement can at best win some concessions but the ruling elite will always come back to undermine and take back those concessions through various other neo-liberal policies. Hence, the need for the labour movement to establish and build a pan Nigeria mass working people political party that will wage determined political struggle against APC, PDP, APGA etc., and defeat them. It is only the defeat of the capitalist class and coming to power of the working masses on a socialist program that can usher in sustainable pro-people development, industrialization and growth that can fundamentally resolve all the contradictions created by capitalism.