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For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

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December 22, 2005

 

MINIMUM WAGE:

 

LABOUR MUST IMMEDIATELY COMMENCE MASS MOBILISATION OF RANK AND FILE WORKERS AND YOUTHS IN THE COMMUNITIES

 

We in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) fully support the demand of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) for an immediate increase in the minimum wage, which is already long overdue. We call on the NLC to reach out to other Labour centres (TUC and CFTU) with whom they should together immediately evolve a comprehensive programme of action around which the rank and file workers and pro-labour organisations and activists will be mobilised to achieve this well deserved goal. In addition the rank and file workers, labour activists, youths and socialists must not leave initiatives to the labour leaders alone, they should independently organise activities including meetings, political education, etc, in factories, communities and schools to mobilise sustainable support for the struggle. Youths in particular must appreciate the fact that the issue of decent wages and living conditions is not an issue for workers alone but that of entire working class people and poor in general.

 

Up till June 2000 a litre of petrol used to sell for N20, but today officially, it sells for a minimum of N65 per litre. This amounts to a whooping 225 percent increase over a period of 5 years without a corresponding increase in the minimum wage to cushion the effects of inflation that has kept increasing the prices of all essential goods and services within the corresponding period of time. However, if the campaign for improved minimum wage is to enjoy massive support among the rank and file workers, certain lessons from previous campaigns for a new minimum wage must be put in practice for the success of current campaign.

 

In the aftermath of the year 2000 increment in the minimum wage, tens of thousands of workers were retrenched by employers in both the private and public sectors using as excuse the high cost of paying the new minimum wage. Therefore right from the beginning, if the current campaign must succeed, labour leaders must make it clear to all and sundry that Labour will not accept a single retrenchment under the guise of an increment in minimum wage. Organised Labour must frontally fight against unwarranted retrenchment of workers by both public and private establishments who unjustly sack workers under the guise of harsh economic condition

 

THE ISSUE AT STAKE

 

A dangerous dimension has already been introduced into the minimum wage issue. This is to the effect that the proposed increment will only apply to federal civil servants. This to say the least is divisive policy, which must be unconditionally rejected and combated by Labour. We hardly need to stress the point that there are no separate markets for federal workers, state workers, local government workers, private sector workers, etc. Therefore, the proposed minimum wage demands must be made applicable to all categories of workers. All sectors of Labour organised under NLC, TUC, CFTU, ASUU, ASUP, etc must be mobilised towards achieving this set goal.

 

WAGES MUST MATCH RATE OF INFLATION

 

Whenever wages go up, the bosses increase the prices of goods and services. This is why there should be a consistent demand for periodic increment in wages to match the level of inflation and its attendant effects. However, the point should be noted that there is no way no way an adequate minimum wage can be guaranteed for Nigerian workers unless other related issues like food, housing, health care, transportation, electricity, education, job opportunities etc are fundamentally resolved, an impossible dream under the prevailing global capitalist dispensation.

 

ARE THERE ENOUGH RESOURCES TO MEET LABOUR DEMANDS?

 

Expectedly, the government and employers of labour will claim as usual that there is shortage of adequate funds to meet these demands. However, rather than lack or inadequacy of required resources, it is the present orgy of treasury looting which characterises governance and management in both public and private sectors, as well as the profit first interest of employers of labour that make it impossible for decent living standards to be guaranteed for vast majority of the working people. The elite never complain about the over-bloated salaries and allowances of top public officials.

 

Since the last minimum wage increase Nigeria has amassed fabulous wealth from the sales of oil and gas, more than any period in the last two decades. However, as one World Bank report reveals only 1% of Nigerians consume the 80% of the country’s resources while 99 per cent are left to scramble for the remaining 20%. This is why it is imperative for Labour to link the struggle for minimum wage to the struggle for the attainment of an economic and political arrangement where the commanding heights of the economy and major resources of the nature are commonly owned, planned and democratically managed by the working people of Nigeria themselves. Therefore, the working people, the urban and rural poor, must be mobilised around this political alternative geared towards putting an end to the present rot and decay and ensuring that the looted billions of dollars that currently line the pockets of individuals are used to guarantee the basic needs of all as well as pay living salaries to workers. As we often state, only a workers and poor peasant government with a central goal of organising production and governance for needs of all and not for greed of a few can put in place this kind of outlined economic agenda.

 

Lastly, the labour leaders should henceforth take the new minimum wage campaign beyond the pages of newspapers. First and foremost a specific demand on what the new minimum wage being demanded (which of course must take into accounts the current rates of inflation and actual cost of living) must be immediately announced. This is not only important as a mobilisational figure, but also as a target around which struggle will be waged. In addition, Labour should immediately begin enlightenment campaigns and other practical activities at factories, communities, local, state and federal levels to mobilise the rank and file workers, youths and the public for the struggle. If Labour fights passionately along the outlined plans, the conditions of the working masses will be better for it. If not, they would sadly reveal the characters of those who have the opportunities of fighting to achieve better living conditions for the working masses but instead choose to tolerate/collaborate with exploiters/oppressors of the masses.

 

Segun Sango

General Secretary

Democratic Socialist Movement