Labour Holds National Protest over Minimum Wage Legislation
On March 10, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress organised a national protest of affiliates and members to the National Assembly and various state houses of assembly against, among other issues, the planned transfer of minimum wage from exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list. With the exception of Lagos and Abuja which saw modest turnouts, the participation was low nationally. This was a result of growing distrust for the central labour leadership by workers given their past betrayals and capitulations, especially the last minute suspension of last September 18’s general strike and national protest against hikes in fuel price and electricity tariff.
Members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) intervened in the protests in Abuja, Lagos, Oyo, Ogun and Osun with a special leaflet and copies of Socialist Democracy (SD) – our bimonthly paper. Our paper’s current issue has a major article on the protest which argues for how the struggle can win and other issues that must be fought for. We specifically argue that a protest must not be one-off, but the start of a series of mass actions to drive home the demands which should include full implementation of the current national minimum wage together with payment of arrears of salaries and pensions and rejection of increases in fuel price and electricity tariff. We also link these struggles to the need for a working people political alternative. 115 copies of the SD were sold.
Below are the reports of the protest marches attended by comrades.
By Michael Lenin
In Abuja the March 10 protest called by the NLC and TUC against the removal of the minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list started at Unity fountain with over 1000 protesters marching to the National Assembly. Protesters were chanting anti-government songs and slogans. The presidents of the NLC and TUC and some other labour leaders, including Dr. Dipo Fashina Chair of the Joint Action Front (JAF), addressed the protesters.
None of the speakers, except Dipo Fashina, raised issues beyond the minimum wage. Dipo Fashina raised the need for workers to contest for power and take political power through a mass workers’ party. His speech got the nods of many protesters. However, he didn’t proceed to explain the process of forming a workers’ party, how such a party needs to be organised and the programmes such a party must adopt in order to meet the aspirations of workers and the general masses for better society. Nevertheless, his speech got the applause of many protesters. This shows that rank and file of workers are desirous of a fighting trade unionism with programmes that can emancipate them.
By Abbey Trotsky
No fewer than four members of the Oyo State Chapter of Democratic Socialist Movement, DSM intervened in a street protest jointly organised on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, to resist the ongoing move by the National Assembly to move the minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list.
The protest which kicked-off around 8:30am from the Secretariat of the Oyo State chapter of NLC was poorly attended as only very few affiliates of the two trade union centres had their members participating in the protest. Altogether, there were about 250 workers who participated in the protest. These were largely made up of officials of respective unions, not the rank and file members of the unions.
It is important to state, that the low turnout and attendance to a large extent reflects a lack of confidence among the workers, including the state leadership, in the national leadership of the two trade union centres. This was clearly expressed during a meeting of NLC State Executive Council, SEC, and TUC State Administrative Council, SAC, which included members of DSM, Oyo State Chapter, held at the NLC state secretariat on March 8 in preparation for the protest. The fear that the planned action could be suspended by the national leaderships of the two trade union centres was so huge that it was so obvious that the majority of the SAC and SEC members were not enthusiastic about carrying out any serious mobilisation for the planned action.
Despite the low turnout, the protest march took off from the NLC secretariat, through the Immigration Office instead of Gate area which used to be the traditional route of the previous protests, to the state government Secretariat where the petition to the state house assembly was delivered. Thereafter, a majority of the workers marched back to the state NLC secretariat where the protest was terminated around 12noon.
One of the significant features of the protest is the fact that it further exposed the labour leadership’s collaborationist policy. The TUC chairman in his speech, for instance, described the Engr Seyi Makinde-led government in the state as a workers’ friendly government despite its failure to fully implement the new minimum wage of N30, 000 for all categories of civil servants in the state. He also commended the appointment of, Mr Titilola Sodo, the immediate past state chairman of the NLC, as the SA Labour to the Governor and saw this as a model of partnership that he felt must always be sustained between the government and labour.
Going by this background, it is will amount to an exercise in futility if the effort to reposition labour as presently constituted is simply limited to a mere redemption of the current leaders of the movement at all levels. Although, it is not ruled out that the labour leaders could be forced by the pressure from below to move farther than intended in a series of struggles that will break out in the coming period. This is given the fact that the working people will definitely stage a fight back against the economic onslaughts being unleashed on them by the ruling elite in the coming period.
The role of left and socialist organisations like DSM should always be to intervene in all of these struggles and help it to win some concessions. At the same time, socialists and left trade unionist have to campaign for the repositioning the trade union movement as a fighting and democratic organ of workers among the rank and file workers and through a consistent and painstaking effort of building a new layer of labour activists with a left and socialist orientation from below.
The palpable mood on the street during the protest march, specifically among the working people, clearly showed that confidence in the power of labour movement has not been completely eroded despite the several betrayals of the labour leadership and likewise the will and determination of working people to end their daily condition of poverty and misery. This is an indication that any struggle that involves sufficient mobilization of the working people and led by determined and courageous leadership with a genuine intention to fight against capitalist attacks will always enjoy a massive support of the working people.
Over 1,000 copies of both the Socialist party of Nigeria (SPN) and DSM leaflets were circulated during the protest and 28 copies of Socialist Democracy, SD, were sold.
By Kola Ibrahim
Members of the DSM in Osun State participated in the Protest Demo organised by the labour centres and their affiliates against attempt to remove the minimum wage from Exclusive List of the Constitution, which held in Osogbo (and several other state capital cities) on March 10. The protest which started around 9.30 a.m. had about 300 workers in attendance, with an energised mood. The protest took off from Ogo-Oluwa temporary Secretariat of the NLC and ended at the State House of Assembly where a protest letter of the labour movement was presented to the speaker of the Assembly.
Tens of copies of leaflets produced for the protest was circulated while 13 copies of the old Socialist Democracy, SD, paper of the DSM, worth N3100, were sold. An important positive of the protest was the fact that it brought back the power of labour on to the street. Hopefully this will help rekindle the mass participation of the workers in their unions. We also took time to discuss with some labour leaders from affiliates in how to rebuild the labour movement through the involvement of workers in the union. The protest ended around 12.00 noon.
By HT Soweto
A contingent of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) – CWI Nigeria – participated in the protest rally in Lagos State organised by the NLC and TUC nationwide to defend the minimum wage, reject new plans to hike fuel price, electricity tariff and all anti poor policies.
The protest march took off at Ikeja Under Bridge with speeches by labour leaders and ended at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa where a petition was delivered.
Over 1,000 turned out for the protest – far beyond expectation given labour’s weakness due to its loss of support since last September’s botched general strike. We sold about 65 copies of the Socialist Democracy (SD) – the bi monthly paper of the DSM – something which also partially indicates the mood and hunger for ideas.
The protest which held successfully while recent efforts to organise protests by youth and other civil society organisations are viciously repressed by the state since October last year’s #EndSARS uprising shows why it is a mistake to ignore or rule out the working class because of the treachery of its bureaucratic leadership.
By Eko John Nicholas
The March 10 national protests across the country, declared by the NLC to demand a halt, to the attempts by members of the national assembly to remove minimum wage from the exclusive list, to the concurrent one, took place in Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital.
The rally, which took off from the NLC secretariat, was sparsely attended by the rank and file workers, but ‘massively’ populated by the leadership cadres, cutting across affiliate unions, largely domiciled in the state capital. Overall, the numbers of workers in attendance, were less than hundred!
The workers marched through the NNPC mega station, onward to Oke Mosan; the state government secretariat, and terminated at the state house of assembly, where a protest letter was delivered to the speaker of the state assembly.
In his remarks, the NLC state chairman, Comrade Emmanuel Bankole, praised members of the state assembly as partners, who according to him, are ever ready to listen to the cries of the workers, whenever they come calling!
The speaker in his response, thanks the workers for their confidence reposed on members and his leadership, and promised reciprocating it by communicating the workers’ demands to the appropriate quarters.
The whole proceedings look more like a scene being choreographed! Not even chanting of songs critical of the government were expressly given the nod by the labor leaders!
And after the rally was brought to a close, the labour leaders distributed ‘white envelopes’ to the security personnel ( police and civil defense members) who accompanied the rally, under the guise of preventing breach of public order!