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Socialist Democracy Nov - Dec 2002.rtf




Socialist Democracy Nov - Dec 2002

Political Violence, Election Rigging ...

Only The Masses Can Save Civil Rule



NLC Must Fight For All Workers

In August 2002, the Federal Government announced the increase in workers wages by 12.5% with effect from January 2003.

The May 2000 minimum wage agreement signed between labour and the government fixed the national minimum wage for all section of workers both in the private and public sectors at N5,500 while the FG fixed a minimum of N7,500 for all its workers. It was agreed that the state public sector workers were to maintain the same wage differentials as the previous minimum wage signed during the last military regime.

The agreement also recognised that the minimum wage was not adequate enough and therefore further increases of 25% and 15% for the years 2001 and 2002 respectively were agreed upon. But the government reneged in the agreement reached between it and the labour unions for a 25% increase in 2001 and another 15% increase in 2002 claiming decline in government revenue. The present increase of 12.5% not only falls short of the signed agreement but also is coming 19 months behind schedule.

Since the year 1998, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) has been at the forefront of the call for a N20,000 monthly minimum wage. In order to bring workers today to at least the level of 1980, the minimum wage will need to be nothing less than N25,000. This is because of the constant rise in the rate of inflation and the eventual effect of devaluation of the naira.

Unfortunately, the NLC leadership has not been prepared and determined to fight for a decent minimum wage. Not only in 2000 but thereafter, the NLC would have been able to win a higher minimum wage. But the NLC leaders were not prepared to mobilise workers towards achieving this goal. They did not want to antagonise the Obasanjo administration. This they could have done successfully by exposing the opulent lifestyles and ostentatious living of political office holders and top managers which do not reflect that the economy is undergoing any serious crisis. It should have campaigned that the poor and impoverished workers cannot accept austerity measures and low wages while the political office holders continue to live in luxury.


But it may even take a lot of struggles by workers and the unions to get the 12.5% increase implemented. Since the announcement of the 12.5% increase by the Federal Government, most states have condemned the increase, claiming that they do not have funds for its implementation. In the words of the governor of Edo State, "

Let Edo workers not expect any increase at all from the state government". Even the private sector employers association (NECA) has condemned the recent increase.

It is therefore necessary that the NLC should map out a plan that will see that no section of workers is left out in the implementation of new wage increase. It is important to state that up till now many employers in the public and private sectors are yet to implement the 2000 increment fully. A lot of workers were retrenched as a result of the minimum wage implementation. In Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Kwara, Yobe states, etc, thousands of workers were thrown out of work allegedly as a result of the implementation. In some other states like Anambra, Imo, Abia, Enugu, etc, workers are still being owed salary arrears running into more than six (6) months up till today. Even at the federal level, the government which has implemented the new minimum wage with one hand is also carrying out retrenchment of workers with the other. In the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) for instance, over half of the workforce have been laid off since the announcement of the so-called minimum wage.

Not only must the NLC ensure that such a situation does not reoccur this time, it should also take up the matter of those workers who have been victimised, retrenched and unduly deprived of their salaries as a result of the last minimum wage increase. Unless this is done, more and more workers will be alienated from the unions and NLC. What is more, it will become extremely difficult for the NLC to get the support of workers for any struggle as there would be a justifiable fear that they would be abandoned by the NLC in case there is any victimisation by the employer.