30,000 MINIMUM WAGE
Labour Must Insist on its Implementation and Prompt Payment Across States Without Retrenchment!
Several months after Buhari/APC led government was compelled through various agitations and street protests, including a threat of strike action by Nigeria workers, to finally approve the implementation of the long overdue new minimum of N30,000, many state governments are yet to make concrete commitments over the new minimum wage let alone commencing its implementation.
By Abbey Trotsky
But now the new minimum wage is under threat. In the states that have commenced implementation of the new N30,000 minimum wage, recent actions suggest that the continuity of the implementation may not be guaranteed in the coming period. Therefore, the leadership of labour must be prepared to lead workers in a determined struggle for the full defense of the new minimum wage.
For instance, for the month of May 2020 without any warning deductions were made by the Kano State government from the monthly salaries of the public workers in the state. In the same month of May 2020, the situation in Kaduna State did not fare better for over 11,000 health workers who had their monthly salary deducted by 25% by the state government.
Unless this kind of anti-worker model experimented by both the Kano and Kaduna state governments is defeated through a determined action of Nigerian workers through the coordination of a determined leadership, it will sooner or later become an example that will be borrowed by other state governments across the country, including those that have not even commenced the implementation of the minimum wage.
Of course, governors will base the criminal deduction on the decline in revenue as a result of crash in oil prices which was triggered by the trade war between Russia and Saudi Arabia and deepened by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic as well as the effects of the pandemic on the internally generated revenues.
Workers must resist any policy that will make them the sacrificial lamb of the economic crisis. They must also prevail on their leadership not to be cajoled and deceived by arguments around economic crisis.
Already, between October 2019, when the new minimum wage was eventually approved by Buhari-led Federal government and now, the value of the new minimum wage of N30,000 has been grossly eroded by the combination of inflation and devaluation of Naira.
Besides, there is nothing concrete in terms of benefits that can be said to be enjoyed by these civil servants during the period the economy was relatively better. This is unlike the pro-capitalist politicians and their acolytes either in politics or business who have always been using their political privileges and influence to unduly appropriate to themselves, benefits of the economy whether in the period of recession or boom. Aside from the humongous salaries and allowances these political office holders award to themselves outside several other forms of undue privileges, we also note that the criminal inflation of contract sum of projects is another regular fraudulent practice by which these pro-capitalist politicians loot public funds in collaboration with political acolytes who masquerade as contractors. There is also the so-called security vote which is a huge amount of fund the President, Governors and Local Government Chairpersons irrespective of political parties in power deduct from the coffers of the State without legislative appropriation or any form accountability. It must be cancelled.
Given the kind of stupendous benefits and privileges enjoyed by political office holders and their acolytes together with the outright looting of the treasury, they must pay for the economic crisis, not the poor workers who have always struggled to survive the economic crises. It is inexplicable for about 17,000 political office holders across the country to earn a staggering over 1.2 trillion Naira annually while workers are subjected to poverty wage and many Nigerians are in misery and poverty.
It is in the light of this we hold that workers’ demand for the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage and its prompt payment without retrenchment and cuts in salary must be linked to other demands like placing all political office holders on salaries and allowances that is equivalent to the one earned by the civil servants; cancellation of fraudulent contract system and replace it with democratically controlled direct labour and public work under which the ministry of works will be equipped with necessary machinery and expertise. We also demand cancellation of security vote must while the long list of unnecessary proliferated political offices must be scrapped.
Also imperative is the need for democratic control and management of all public funds and projects at all levels of government by a committee of elected representatives of the working people publicly reporting what they find and do.
However we fully recognize that while the stamping down on all forms or corruption and looting would free up considerable funds it would not resolve the fundamental issues of capitalism’s inability to develop Nigeria and provide decent, secure living conditions for its over 200 million people. Nigeria has tremendous resources, both human and material. The question is who controls their use – the capitalists and their drive for profit or the working people themselves democratically deciding how these resources are used for the benefit of all.
This is why socialists argue for the nationalization of key sectors of economy under democratic management and control by the working people in order to liberate huge resources in the hands of a few and use them for the benefit of the vast majority. However, we recognize how extremely impossible for these measures to be undertaken by pro-capitalist governments. It is only a pro-working people government formed and run on the basis of a socialist programme that is capable of implementing them. We call on the NLC, TUC and ULC to mobilize Nigerian workers across the country for mass struggles including strikes and protests to defend the N30,000 minimum wage and also resist retrenchment, pay cuts, hike in electricity tariff, hike in school fees and other capitalist attacks. If workers are mobilized for struggle they can win and we will strive to help transform Labour into a force that struggles for this necessary change.