FG’S 40% PAY RISE WELCOMED, BUT NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR A NATIONALLY NEGOTIATED WAGE INCREMENT!
NLC and TUC Must Demand a New National Minimum Wage That Takes Account of the Rising Inflation!
Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) May Day 2023 Leaflet
The current minimum wage of N30,000 was reluctantly signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on the 18th April, 2019. This was after a series of agitations including protests and threats of strikes by workers. Yet, no fewer than seven (7) state governments have not implemented the wage to date.
However, as a result of the crisis of capitalism in Nigeria and internationally, the N30,000 minimum wage has not translated into any significant improvement in the living condition of workers even where it has been implemented fully or partially. The fact is that the income calculated on the basis of this minimum wage has been eroded by the increasing rate of inflation and high cost of living, including the cost of accessing essential services like education, health care etc., in the country.
This shows that the current minimum wage is long overdue for an upward review as it is obvious that it is no longer supported by the prevailing economic realities in the country. It is in light of this, we call on the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC) and Trade Union Congress, (TUC) as well as their affiliate unions to jointly come up with a new proposed minimum wage figure based on the current economic indices and struggle for its implementation. Furthermore, there cannot be four year gaps between minimum wage increases. Especially at a time of high inflation there must be at least an annual upgrading of the minimum wage to ensure that its real value is not undermined.
The commencement of 40% increase in the salaries of federal civil servants in April 2023 and the earlier implementation of a similar increase by the Lagos State government for its workforce are open acknowledgement and acceptance that the current N30,000 minimum wage is now due for an upward review. We of the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) welcome this pay rise though as a palliative to cushion the effect of current harsh economic realities and demand that it should be extended to all categories of workers. The FG’s 40 percent pay rise is meant for federal civil servants alone while medical personnel, academic staff and other categories of staff on special salary structures are excluded even though their own wage has also suffered depreciation. We also urge state governments to extend a similar gesture to workers in their respective states.
However, we call on workers and the leadership of labour not to be carried away by this development which is just a mere gesture and can never be a substitute for a new minimum wage that takes into account the rising cost of living. As far as we are concerned, a new minimum wage must be collectively negotiated in line with the principle of collective bargaining not just an award by either the FG or state government. Indeed, labour must ensure that such a pay rise award is not a backdoor move by the government at all levels to remove minimum wage as an item in the exclusive legislative list (i.e. something that must be determined centrally). Therefore, labour must insist on a collective renegotiation of a new minimum wage and call for the setting up of the tripartite committee to commence the process of the collective renegotiation of a new minimum wage. This is after the NLC and TUC must have agreed within its rank on a harmonised figure based on the current economic reality as a proposal for the new minimum wage. Also importantly, workers and trade union leaders must also not accept an improved wage that is tied to the removal of subsidy on petrol as a condition.
VITAL LESSONS OF THE PAST MINIMUM WAGE STRUGGLE
It must be noted that the division within the NLC that led to the formation of ULC and inability of the labour to agree on a harmonized figure handed a huge advantage to the government in the last minimum wage struggle. This is a vital lesson that must be learned. Labour centres must be united in serious struggle for a new minimum wage.
At the same time, various past agitations for the minimum wage showed that a concerted and consistent struggle is required to secure not only an early approval of a meaningful new minimum wage but also to guarantee the implementation. Therefore, labour must be prepared to organise a series of mass actions including mass sensitisation activities, nationwide protests and general strikes. However, the struggle for minimum wage must be linked with a struggle to end casualization and other forms of indecent labour practices like contract employment. Otherwise, workers who are currently under casual or contract employment and usually constitute the majority of the workforce in many private companies will be excluded from benefiting from the new minimum wage.
According to the new minimum wage act, only a worker under regular employment is qualified for national minimum wage. This should be rejected by the NLC and TUC. It is a deliberate ploy to ensure that the profit interest of the big business owners is adequately protected at the expense of the overall interest of the working people. However, this further underscores why the struggle against casualisation must be taken seriously by the NLC and TUC.
By and large, the struggle for minimum wage and various demands for other forms of improvement in the conditions of working people must always be linked with the need to build a mass workers’ political party to wrest political power from the capitalist vampires. This is because only a genuine working and poor people’s government that is run on the basis of a socialist plan can use human and material resources to guarantee access to decent living condition and other basic needs by the vast majority on a permanent basis.