May Day 2022: Time for Mass Struggle to end Mass Suffering in the Midst of Plenty
Next step – a 48 hour General Strike!
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) felicitates with workers in Nigeria and globally as we celebrate the International Workers Day. This year’s celebration should be best used to take stock of the living and working conditions of Nigerian workers and the poor masses and how to organize sustained struggles for decent work, decent quality of life and a better society.
This year’s May Day is taking place against a background of world crisis. Inflation is rapidly cutting living standards around the globe as the capitalist economy enters into crisis. Wars are taken place around the world and right now the war in Ukraine threatens to have worldwide implications. At home in Nigeria it is widely seen that the country is in grave crisis. The deepening economic crisis is worsened by insecurity which, rather than abate, has become more widespread and pronounced under Muhammadu Buhari government. On top of this are various attacks on democratic rights. The APC and PDP have no answers, but the high prices both charge for nomination forms shows that the competition between them is for which gang of thieves is able to loot the country after 2023. In this regard it is vital that Labour presents its own alternative and fights for it.
Action is needed now on the key issues. A concerted campaign must be waged to mobilise support for a 48-hour general strike around key demands and to ensure that if demands are formally met then they are implemented. We can no longer tolerate the situation where the government agrees to demands, like minimum wage rises or the 2009 agreement with ASUU, and then they are not fully implemented.
Cost of Living
The cost of living is rising so fast, living standard has plummeted and many working people are driven into poverty and misery. Capitalist exploitation and drive for super profit are responsible for the growing poverty and this is so because governance, production, and the entire economy are configured to satisfy the greed of a tiny capitalist elite at the expense of the vast majority. The working masses face excruciatingly high cost of living, unemployment is getting higher, workers still in employment are heavily exploited. It is unimaginable that Nigerians are forced to buy commodities (petroleum products and gas) that we ought to have a comparative advantage over at cut-throat prices. For instance, diesel is selling for about N700 per litre, kerosene sells for about N500 per litre while cooking gas sells for about 800 per kg. These are commodities that are generated from our natural resources with which Nigeria is endowed but capitalism has made it impossible for the working masses to benefit from them.
The drive for profit and exploitation is more experienced at workplaces as employers of labour implement indecent work practices and anti-labour policies such as casualisation and contract staffing. Casualisation and contract staffing have become so widespread because it makes it easy for the capitalist to employ workers in poor working conditions only second to slavery. Most casual workers are paid peanuts, they are not entitled to pensions, disengagement entitlements, bonuses or any other entitlement. Contract or outsourced workers are also casuals and the only difference is that workers are employed through contrived proxy private firms in order to make it easy for the capitalist to evade obligations and responsibility to workers.
Due to the profitability associated with casualisation and contract staffing, 70 per cent of the workers are condemned to casualisation. Unfortunately, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have not organized resistance to casualisation and other anti-labour practices and this in itself gives management the freedom to implement all manners of anti-labour practices unhindered. As a matter of fact, some trade union leaders (Food Union etc.) help to perpetuate casualisation in different workplaces by setting up outsourcing companies to employ workers or entering a deal with management to allow casualisation provided union dues are deducted and remitted to the unions. It is high time labour resuscitated the Anti-casualisation Committee and this should be put in place at all levels and affiliated unions to be able to checkmate management.
The Pension Reform has created a pension scheme that benefits the profiteers much more than workers. As a matter of fact, the pension scheme is a further attack on the pension right of workers and pensioners considering the fact that workers are forced to contribute 8% from their poverty wage. The real motive behind the new pension scheme is for the capitalist class to reduce or relinquish their responsibilities towards retirees and to have a huge pool of contributed funds in the hands of the capitalists to profit from.
Currently, we have an avalanche of company managements and some state and local governments who deduct pension from workers’ wage and pocket the money. Also, the deductions which are remitted to the Pension Administrators are susceptible to abuse, mismanagement and sharp practices in the absence of democratic control. Labour leaders must fight for a living pension but also tied to it is a living wage. N30,000 minimum wage has been largely eroded by the rising cost of living and the implementation of neo-liberal policies.
It is pathetic that some state governments are yet to implement the N30,000 minimum wage, so also many private companies. The electricity tariff has been hiked 3 times from N21 to about N43 kwh; price of commodities goes up daily. The minimum wage should be adjusted to the rate of inflation, but this is not the case.
It is high time labour leaders began the agitation and struggle for a new minimum wage and this time around, it should be a wage that can make workers stay above poverty and be increased in line with the rate of inflation.
The demands of such a struggle should also include the reduction of the jumbo salaries, allowances and pension of political office holders to the average wage and pension of skilled workers.
For Working People’s Political Alternative
The struggle for the economic well-being of the working masses cannot be achieved without a sustained political struggle. As it stands now, the cheated and suffering working masses do not have a mass political party of their own and it appears the trade union leaders are not interested in building a mass working class political party. While there was talk about a worker’s political alternative, it appears the main agenda of the recent political conference organized by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) is to mobilise workers to back supposed better capitalist candidates and political parties.
For us, none of the capitalist parties and candidates has the capacity to resolve the social-economic contradictions let alone defend the interest of the working masses. As we are presently witnessing the massive failure under the Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) regime, so also we witnessed failed governments under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governments. All the bourgeois political parties and candidates are anti-poor by the logic and consequence of the iniquitous capitalist system.
Hence, it is futile for NLC and TUC to mobilise any support for the anti-poor bourgeois candidates or parties. We also welcome the plan by the NLC and TUC to reclaim the Labour Party, which has been lost to some rotten elements, but we urge that, if labour leaders are serious about building a democratically run working people’s political alternative, much time should not be wasted on it once it is clear that the effort would be unproductive. The NLC and TUC have immense capacity to form and build another party.
The truth is that there will not be a real choice in 2023. For Labour the questions are what to do now to defend living standards and what can be done to build a real alternative that can change society. To achieve this labour leaders should mobilise the working masses in alliance with pro-masses organisations like the People’s Alternative Political Movement (TPAP-M) to form a mass working people political party on a socialist program, to consistently fight against all anti-poor, capitalist policies and to challenge and defeat the self-serving capitalist ruling elite and fundamentally change society in the interest of the vast majority.
The Socialist Party of Nigeria, which the CDWR supports, though a small party, has demonstrated that it is possible to form and build a party of the working people. The SPN was formed as a party of struggle and will continue as such despite its recent deregistration by the INEC, and committed to actively participating in the building a mass-based working class political party.
The only way out for Nigeria and humanity is socialism based on the planning of production, services and exchange towards meeting the needs of the vast majority. To achieve this, we need a working peoples’ government that will nationalise the commanding heights of the economy and placed under the democratic control and management of the working masses in order to mobilise adequate resources that could be used for the benefits of the vast majority.
Issued by the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) as leaflet for circulation at 2022 May Day rallies