COVID-19 WORKERS’ CHARTER
Cardinal Demands Trade Unions, Working People and Youth Should Fight for
Working people, the poor and most other Nigerians face a new threat. The COVID-19 pandemic, by accelerating the underlying contradiction of the capitalist system, has indeed triggered a new recession thereby forcing the global economy into crises of immense magnitude. Due to inherent capitalist contradictions, the pandemic is not just infecting millions of people and killing hundreds of thousands of people, millions of people have been thrown into joblessness across the globe.
By Chinedu Bosah
But what is most crucial for the working class today is the agenda of the capitalist elite to make the workers and poor masses pay for the unfolding economic crisis. Typical of the capitalists, workers have become the sacrificial lamb to be slaughtered on the altar of profit and condemned to more poverty when production was disrupted. We have witnessed massive layoffs of workers and cuts in salary since March 2020 in many companies.
It is now necessary that a plan of struggle is drawn. NLC, ULC and TUC should convoke a “COVID-19 Workers Assembly” nationally, alongside state assemblies, comprising activists and trade unionists elected from workplaces and communities to discuss how to respond to the attacks including cuts in salary, sacks, indecent work practices (casualization and contract staffing), inflation and imposition of anti-poor policies like stamp duty, electricity tariff, fuel price hike etc. This assembly should also work towards the revival of Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) to build a mass movement and political alternative on a socialist programme to achieve a real change. We present below, for discussion and action, a “COVID-19 workers charter” for the labour movement:
WHAT UNIONS/WORKERS SHOULD DEMAND AND FIGHT FOR:
* Provision of Personal Protective Equipment (face mask, gowns, hand gloves, respirators etc.) and free medication, regular testing and treatment for all health professionals and workers both at the frontline against the pandemic and at all public hospitals.
* Provision of free safety kits including face mask, gloves, hand sanitizer, hand washing facilities etc., for workers in all factories, schools and workplaces as well as in communities. Observation of physical distancing measures in schools and workplaces. Mass testing, contact tracing and treatment for all in order to be able to rapidly halt the ballooning community transmission of COVID-19. Adequate testing kits and all other necessary equipment that will allow health care workers to be fully functional.
* Adequate life insurance policy for all healthcare workers and frontline personnel. This also includes nurses, fumigators, drivers, security men etc.
* ₦100,000 Special COVID-19 monthly allowance to all medical/health professionals and other workers at the frontline of the war against COVID-19 during this emergency period occasioned by the pandemic.
* Adequate funding of the public health sector and provision of free and democratically-managed health care to guarantee functional, quality and free healthcare delivery for all.
* All the unions and professional bodies in the health sector must immediately form joint negotiating committees to see to its immediate and effective implementation of all industry-wide demands devoid of sectarian interest.
* Reopening of schools to be based on agreement by education workers and students unions e.g. ASUU, NUT, SSANU, NASU, ASUP, CASUOSTI, NANS, Students unions etc and parents that it is satisfactorily safe on the basis of science for learning and teaching. In other words, there is strict compliance with NDDC guidelines and other safety protocols.
* Free provision of facemasks to students and staff as well as the provision of hand sanitizers, running water, hand washing facilities and temperature monitors in all schools.
* No to e-learning without corresponding free internet access, efficient internet connectivity and electricity supply. For the provision of efficient internet facilities in all schools at no charge to students.
* Class sizes of not more than 30 to a teacher in all primary and secondary schools whether public or private. Employment of adequate number of teachers and other workers.
* Immediate renovation of school buildings and expansion of classroom facilities in all schools in order to ensure reduced class sizes and social distancing.
* Setting up of COVID-19 compliance action committee by students and workers to enforce the compliance of all schools with guidelines. Immediate actions like lecture boycotts, strike, protest and picket to shut down any school found flouting the rules.
* Reversal of fee hike across campuses and an end to education commercialization.
* Improved funding of public education and provision of free and democratically-managed education at all levels.
* Halt to attacks on democratic rights. Reinstate politically victimized workers and students in LASU, LASPOTECH, OAU etc.
* Reverse all attacks on independent unionism in LASU, LASPOTECH, OAU etc.
* Meeting of demands and implementation of collective bargaining agreement with all unions including ASUU, NASU, SSANU. End to IPPIS and other anti-worker policies of the Buhari government.
WORKING CONDITION AND JOB PROTECTION
* No to job losses. No to furloughing, retrenchment and downsizing.
* No to cut in workers’ wages, payment of fractional salary and non-remittance of deductions. For full payment of N30, 000 minimum wage and all entitlement to workers as a step towards living wage. For full payment of backlog of owed wages and pensions.
* Immediate action by the workers’ movement to picket any company laying off workers and call out the workers for strike action and/or factory occupation. Fight for the nationalization of any company declaring redundancy.
* Open the books of the companies and factories for workers to see the true state of finances.
* Social distancing rules and all safety guidelines to be enforced in all workplaces by a elected COVID-19 Workers action committees composed of the most militant workers.
* End casualization and exploitative contract staffing as well as other anti-labour policies. Regularization of all employment.
* For serious struggle by the labour movement to defend, unionize and organize street cleaners, factory workers and other exploited and low paid layers of the workforce.
* For a democratic, mass-based and fighting trade union movement and leadership.
* All political office holders must earn the wage of skilled civil servant and an end to jumbo allowances security votes and outrageous pensions for former presidents and governors as a means of saving some funds that can be channeled to development-oriented activities.
* No to plan to spend N27 billion to renovate the National Assembly. End the corrupt contract system. Cancel security votes.
* No trust in the capitalist courts to end corruption! For a workers’ tribunal composed by elected representatives of trade unions and pro-working masses organizations to try all corruption cases and jail those found guilty.
* For workers control and management of industries and the workplaces in order to determine what to produce, how to produce and how to distribute.
* Monthly unemployment benefit not less than the minimum wage for all those without jobs until they are gainfully employed.
* Crash programme to create jobs through public works programme funded by the state to develop public infrastructures.
* No to job losses as a result of the implementation of the Oronsaye report. Any worker affected by the merger of ministries, agencies or departments to be transferred to other departments or be accommodated by the expansion of the economy without loss of job or pay.
* Opposition to racking up of the public debt. For immediate and unconditional cancellation of the usurious debt owed to China, IMF, World Bank and Multilateral imperialist agencies.
* Reversal of all anti-poor policies of privatisation, commercialisation and deregulation.
* No to electricity tariff hike and price of petrol. For a mass mobilisation championed by the labour movement and communities to fight the planned hike. Renationalize the power sector and oil and gas industries under democratic workers’ control and management.
* For a serious campaign championed by the labour movement, activists and pro-working masses organisations against the deregistration of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and the formation of a mass workers’ party on a socialist programme.
* For public ownership of banks, oil sector, mines, agriculture and major companies under workers democratic control and management to plan the use of Nigeria’s resources in the interests of the mass of the population and not the ruling class, For the enthronement of workers and poor people’s government armed with socialist policies to carry out this necessary transformation.