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Socialist Democracy Feb - Mar 2003


Minimum Wage Agreement:

Government Must Fulfill Its Promise

By Victor Osakwe

Sometimes in August 2002, at the height of the impeachment saga when the National Assembly was planning to impeach him, President Olusegun Obasanjo reaffirmed that his administration will implement the remaining aspect of the year 2000 minimum wage agreement from January 2003.  But since the beginning of the year, there has been a debate whether the federal government actually accepted to increase the minimum wage by 12.5%. While labour leaders insist that the federal government did mention this, the leaders of government are denying that they ever agreed to it.

The 2000 Minimum Wage Agreement

A cursory look at the year 2000 minimum wage agreement will show that part of the agreement signed was that the minimum wage will be increased by 25% in may 2001, 15% in May 2002 etc in order to bring it level to the true rate of inflation in the country but ever since the increase in May 2000, the government has refused to implement the other part of the agreement. The government has continually waged a propaganda war in the media that the chunk of the federal budget goes to wages and that only a small percentage is left to carry out any meaningful projects for the people. This is contrary to the fact the wages and benefits of political office holders and official corruption, combined with inflation of contracts is responsible for the consumption of the largest chunk of government budget. The position of government is no different from the position of private sector employers of labour whose interest is always to keep wages of their workers low so as to continuously be declaring large profits to themselves and their shareholders yearly while their workers continue to live in object poverty.

Sacked Workers

As a result of the implementation of the May 2000 minimum wage agreement, hundreds of workers were thrown out of their jobs all over the country. An example of such was in Lagos state where comrade Ayodele Akele, state chairman AUPCTRE also the chairman of the council of industrial unions (in the public sector) was retrenched with thousands of workers all over the state just after the partial implementation of the May 2000 agreement in Lagos state. Worse still, those sacked both in the state and federal civil services are yet to be paid their pension and benefits on required by law. While political office holders are awarding to themselves huge wages and benefits backed by inflated contracts. Up and down the country sacked workers are been on the street demanding for the payment of their gratuities and pensions to no avail. The Nigeria Labour congress (NLC) should take up the fight of these people while at the same time demanding the implementation of the minimum wage agreement as signed since May 2000. It is necessary to commend the ASUU led by Dr. Dipo Fashina of Obafemi Awolowo University who has taken up the struggle of its sacked colleagues at the University of Ilorin who were unjustly victimised as a result of their participation in a nationwide strike called by their union.


The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) leadership should insist in the implementation of the increase. It should embark on a comprehensive mobilisation of all sections of workers showing with facts and figures that the federal and state government have the capabilities to pay the minimum wage. It should be ready to embark on a strike action if necessary just as ASUU is doing. The NLC should map out strategies to call out its workers on a 24 hours or 48 hours etc general warning strikes if it really want to see that the minimum wage is implemented as signed as a first step towards bringing the minimum wage of civil servants to meet the rate of inflation in the country.

The NLC leadership should also draw into its fold the hundreds of sacked workers as a result of the partial implementation of the May 2000 agreement. It should take up the plight of the pensioners both at the federal and state levels in order to ensure workers that if the government decides to retrench or sack them as a result of the implementation of the minimum wage agreement in full, it will meet stiff opposition from the NLC or else workers’ enthusiasm will be low to fight for the increase in the minimum wage and the fight would have been lost before it even takes off.


While on the one hand, it is always assumed that an increase in minimum wage always means that workers are going to be better off on the long run, it should be realized by all workers that no amount of wage increment will put a final end to the misery of all workers in the country. The previous increases has shown that inflation has always led to complete fall in the real wage of workers. Price rises of goods and services produced by both the private sector and public sector has always made the cost of living very high for workers. Increases in prices of fuel, food, transport, accommodation, telecommunication, electricity, education, etc, will sooner or later turn any increase in minimum wage to be worthless.

It is therefore necessary that workers and all other strata of society strive to see that the domination of the Nigerian economy by the capitalists at both internal and international levels is put to an end. This is what is responsible for the continuous impoverishment of the Nigerian workers. The profit motive of all capitalists will always make sure that what is given to the workers through one hand returns back to them through the other. It is only under a nationalised planned economy which is democratically controlled by the working class can we see incessant hike in cost of living and thus an endless cycle of demand for wage increases and struggle against retrenchment and sack combined with lack of payment of pensions and gratuities.




Continued ...