CDWR CLAMOURS FOR TRADE UNION LEADERSHIP THAT DEFENDS THE INTEREST OF WORKERS AND THE POOR MASSES
WORKERS AND TRADE UNION ACTIVISTS MUST STRUGGLE FOR A FIGHTING AND DEMOCRATIC TRADE UNION LEADERSHIP
Workers and the poor masses have always been at the receiving end of the various callous capitalist policies implemented by successive governments. But the situation has got much worse under the Buhari government. More disheartening is the fact that many state governments are yet to implement the N30,000 minimum wage, a concession won by workers in 2019, while the trade union leaders have failed to lead a struggle to force its implementation across states.
To add insult to injury, inflation and the cost of living have gone through the roof and thereby further reducing the already low standard of living. Besides, there is an ongoing banking/financial crisis as a result of the cashless policy of the CBN that makes it difficult for people to access funds and do transactions easily. Sadly, as a result of the crisis of capitalism and economic philosophy of the three leading candidates– Tinubu, Atiku and Obi- things may even get worse regardless of who wins the 2023 presidential election. They are all planning to increase petroleum product prices, a further devaluation of the Naira, a decline in funding of public utilities, an increase in fees payable by students of public tertiary institutions etc. The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) calls on trade unions must prepare to resist these attacks along with other anti-poor capitalist policies.
Unfortunately, the labour leaders have not done well to protect the interest of workers and the poor or mobilize mass resistance against capitalist attacks which have been intensified and more profound under the Buhari government’s anti-poor, pro-rich regime. Therefore, considering the massive exploitation of Nigerian workers and the poor, there is the need to elect trade union leaders at the central level and across all levels of the trade union movement that will be responsible to Nigerian workers and defend their interests. At the same time, workers and trade union activists must mount pressure on the new leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) that will emerge from its delegate conference on February 7 & 8, 2023 as well as the Trade Union Congress (TUC) leadership to be more responsible and responsive to the plight and interests of working people and the poor in general.
There is a need for a new minimum wage structure that keeps every worker well above the poverty line and be increased in line with the rate of inflation. Guarantee of living wage, as well as decent living and working conditions, will not be given freely to workers and poor people within the whims and caprices of the capitalist ruling elite in government and in the private sector under the guise of profit maximization. Better working conditions with attendant decent work, with decent wages, must be fought for by workers and trade union leaders with mass protests, mass rallies and strikes, including general strikes when necessary.
Importantly trade union leaders must be prepared to resist and seek to reverse all anti-poor policies including, but not limited to, the deregulation of the oil and gas sector, privatization of the power sector and planned privatization of the aviation sector, commercialization of education and health sectors, and privatization of the maritime sector. In all sectors where privatization and deregulation have been implemented, the natural consequences are borne by the workers with lower pay and poor working conditions, reduction/rationalization of workers through mass sack or retrenchment, higher pricing and more profit for the so-called buyers/investors/managers.
For instance, the price of diesel and kerosene have been unaffordable for many while petrol is sold at about N400 per litre in most filling stations owned and managed by the so-called independent marketers as against the official price of N165. The price of electricity keeps going up every six months. Unlike in the past when the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) used to organize some resistance, though minimal, against the hikes in petrol prices and electricity tariffs, now for about 2 years there has been criminal silence or lack of action from the NLC and TUC leadership, though, these incessant price hikes are dictated by the oil marketers and private sector profiteers in general. The NLC leadership’s acceptance of the Federal Government’s arguments as a justification for suddenly calling off the September 2020 general strike was a betrayal of the struggle which was then posed to start. This further underscores the demand for full democracy within trade unions and the need to have a militant leadership.
There is also the scourge of casualization and outsourced contract staffing which has been left unchallenged by labour leadership. In some factories, 98% of the workforce are either casuals, outsourced or contract workers. Many regularized workers are forced into casualisation and terrible working conditions and in some cases unfortunately this is under the watch and collaboration of trade union leaders. Thisd has been seen in some companies wherein the Food Union (NUFBTE) is organized. Casualisation is so widespread today because of the greedy pursuit for profit by capitalists and the connivance of some trade union leaders. Workers and activists should mobilize resistance against casualization, contract or outsourced staff.
The rising cost of living without commensurate increases in income has driven many people into deep poverty and crises. Labour leaders must force the ruling elite to abandon neo-liberal policies. But this is just a start. There is a need to industrialize Nigeria, create jobs massively and build basic infrastructure; unfortunately, the self-serving capitalist ruling elite lack capacity to achieve this feat due to their parochial interest and subservience to their imperialist foreign masters. It is only a socialist economic programme which includes the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy under the democratic control of the working people that on a permanent basis can guarantee the use of the country’s recourses and talents to defend and advance workers and poor people’s interests.
Winning economic concessions and better welfare packages for workers and poor people can only be sustained in the long run if workers and the poor win political power. In the 2023 elections, workers and the poor masses do not have their political party. The major parties and their candidates are anti-workers and anti-poor. Unfortunately, the Labour Party has long become a platform for the self-serving capitalist elite to use as a spare tire anytime their ambitions are threatened in the mainstream bourgeois political parties. This is why the Labour Party does not appeal to most workers.
At the same time the deep involvement of the APC Federal Government in the development of CONUA, the anti-strike breakaway from ASUU, and the threats to deregister ASUU shows the APC’s real character and must be seen as a warning to all trade unionists and leaders. Furthermore, the fact that some Labour leaders are running as APC candidates or support the APC that is trying to break ASUU, an NLC affiliate, simply adds to the confusion.
Trade unions, workers and left organizations have to begin immediately the process of building a mass working people political party on a socialist programme to mobilise mass resistance against all anti-poor capitalist attacks and to wrest political power from the thieving, backward capitalist elite. This could be done by either reclaiming the current Labour Party from its corrupt, pro-capitalist leadership and completely re-building it as a genuine party of workers and the poor or forming and building a new party as a real force for working people and youth.
CDWR CALLS ON WORKERS TO STRUGGLE FOR THE FOLLOWING:
- An end to all forms of casualisation; for decent work across all sectors.
- Review of the minimum wage upwards to a living wage and to be increased in line with the rate of inflation.
- Resist all anti-poor capitalist policies such as increases in prices of petroleum products and electricity, devaluation of the naira, increase in school fees and poor funding of public education and health care, etc.
- Stop the FG attack on ASUU. Defend the right to strike. End state interference in trade unions.
- Reversal of all anti-poor and neo-liberal policies like privatization, deregulation, commercialization etc. To end power privatization NOW!
- Oppose and reject all pro-management/state union leaders or aspiring union leaders; for union leadership that will defend workers’ interests. By and large, for a campaign within the labour movement for a fighting leadership and genuine democratic structures and measures in trade unions which make leaders accountable to members.
- A mass working people’s political party with a socialist programme.
- Socialist reconstruction of Nigeria starting with a workers’ and poor peoples’ government that nationalises the commanding heights of the economy under working people’s democratic control and management in order to mobilise adequate resources to provide the basic needs of all and economic development.
National Publicity Secretary