N30,000 MINIMUM WAGE: Most Governors yet to implement minimum wage
Labour should mobilise for mass actions for full minimum wage implementation without retrenchment and against all anti-people policies
By Chinedu Bosah, CDWR Publicity Secretary
An improved Minimum Wage was legally supposed to take effect in January 2016 after negotiations in 2015. But, aside from the law, inflation arising from the devaluation of Naira and the implementation of anti-poor capitalist policies had dwarfed the N18,000 Minimum Wage. However the Labour leaders allowed themselves to be blackmailed by the ruling elite into not agitating for an improved minimum wage because of economic recession ironically caused by the bourgeois elite but which never affected their own privileges.
Rather belatedly, the minimum wage agitation started late in 2018 and it took some mass protest of workers before the National Assembly was pressured to pass it into law and the Buhari-led government forced to sign it into law on April 18, 2019. Again, the negotiation for consequential adjustment was stalemated because the government wanted to grant a more ridiculous amount and it took the threat of a general strike for the Buhari-led government to agree to a consequential adjustment on October 18, 2019. The consequential adjustment agreed upon are: 23.2% increase for workers at grade level 07; 20% increase for workers at grade level 08; 19% increase for workers at grade level 09; 16% increase for workers at grade level 10 to 14; and 14% increase for workers at grade levels 15 to 17.
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) argued that the trade union leaders at the national and state levels should have taken the consequential adjustment to the different state and local governments for implementation, rather they went on another voyage of renegotiation with the state governments. The trade union leaders conceded to renegotiation because it does not want to mobilize workers for action to press home its demand and accepted the argument that all states cannot pay same minimum wage. In most parts of the world a minimum wage is applicable to all workers in the country irrespective where they reside and government and private employer can only pay higher wage. Renegotiating the already signed consequential adjustment has given many state governments the leeway to offer a more adulterated minimum wage and delay the implementation. According to a report published in the ThisDay Newspaper of February 5, 2020, the NLC stated that 20 governors are yet to implement the N30,000 minimum wage. It seems many states are continuing to refuse to the pay the legal minimum, just as they did with the previous N18,000 level set in 2011.
In November 2019, the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Mr. Kayode Fayemi said the implementation of the N30,000 Minimum Wage would be dependent on the review of the revenue sharing formula in favour of the states. This position has been apparently shoved aside for now when the federal government conceded 85 percent of the revenue accruable from VAT to the state governments. It will be recalled that there has been a 50% increment of VAT from 5% to 7.5% and the implementation started in February 2020; this amounts to taking from workers with one hand what has been given to them through the other hand. Like Oliver Twist, the ruling elite will push for more anti-worker policies to increase its profit/privileges and to undermine any improvement won by workers. Aside the hike in VAT, electricity tariff has been increased by about 60% whose implementation will begin in April 2020. There is also the planned reintroduction of road tolling in addition to continuous commercialization of education, healthcare etc., all of which will wipe out the little increment that came with the consequential adjustment in wage.
As part of the struggle for the implementation of the minimum wage, the labour leaders should wage struggle against hike in VAT, hike in electricity tariff, reintroduction of road tolling, poor funding of education and healthcare, etc. Labour should also mobilise workers to demand the reduction in jumbo and outrageous salaries and allowances earn by political office holders to the average wage/allowance of civil servants. It is the failure to take these steps that has emboldened the ruling elite to begin another round of upward review of the jumbo salaries and allowances of political office holders through the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). Currently, the salary/allowances of about 17,000 political office holders is costing our economy N1.2 trillion and we could potentially save N1 trillion for basic infrastructure and massive jobs creation if these political office holders are paid average civil service skilled wage and allowances.
So far the minimum wage struggle has been restricted to public sector workers while private sector workers most of whom are casuals, insecure and poorly paid employees are denied the benefit of the little improvement because the trade union leaders have failed to engage private employers of labour to end casualization and outsourcing jobs.
Hence, Labour must change its approach from a boardroom negotiation to mass struggle including a well prepared warning general strike as one of the first steps. Only this can checkmate the manoeuvring of the ruling elite and continuous attacks on the living standard and working conditions of the working people.
It is obvious that the bourgeois ruling elite cannot guarantee a living wage for workers under this exploitative and profit driven capitalist system. Only a socialist planned economy including the nationalization of the major sectors of the economy under the democratic control by the working class can free and utilize the abundant human and natural resources to meet the needs of all.