Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)

For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

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22nd September 2003.

PRESS STATEMENT

PAY 12.5% MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE, AND WITHOUT RETRENCHMENT

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) has received with dismay the position adopted by the Governors’ Forum rejecting the recent 12.5% wage increase for workers.

This said position was made known to journalists in Abuja last weekend by Anambra State governor, Dr. Chris Ngige while speaking on behalf of the governors of the 36 states in the country.

According to Governor Ngige, the governors decided to reject the 12.5% wage increase agreement because some of the state governments could not afford to pay the new increase. More so, Nigeria being a federal structure, state governments should be allowed to negotiate and reach agreement on wages with the trade unions and state chapters of NLC in their individual states.

Our rejection of the governors’ resolution is based on the following reasons:

(i) We reject the argument that states cannot afford to pay the new wage increase. It is our view that Nigeria has adequate resources to guarantee decent living standards for the entire population including payment of living wages to the country’s work force both in the private and public sector, at federal, state and local government level.

What has made this goal unattainable is the neo-colonial capitalist arrangement in the country which concentrates the collective wealth and resources of society in the hands of a few super-rich minority leaving the overwhelming majority to wallow in abject poverty.

(ii) It is very ironical that state governors, many of whom had no qualms spending billions of naira of public funds to bribe their political godfathers can claim not to have sufficient fund to pay public sector workers. It will be recalled that Governor Ngige himself admitted that he signed two cheques worth N1.5 billion to "settle" his now estranged godfather, Chris Uba.

(iii) The same governors who claim they cannot afford this pittance called minimum wage are themselves earning hundreds of thousands of naira as monthly emolument aside from other pecks of office and kickbacks from contracts. It is completely hypocritical for governors who did not object to the fabulous amounts fixed for them as allowances by the National Salaries and Wages Commission to now object to wage increases for workers under the guise of upholding federalism.

(iv) While it is true that Nigeria is supposed to be operating a federal system, this does not preclude the existence of a national minimum wage. In actual fact, it is guaranteed by the 1999 constitution. Thus, contrary to the governors’ argument, the 12.5% minimum wage agreement does not prevent workers in oil producing states or any other state for that matter to seek higher percentage increment.

(v) It will be recalled that the 12.5% increment agreement was a product of the agreement signed between the Federal Government and NLC in May 2000 which provided for 25% increase in May 2001 and 15% increase in May 2002 but which was ignored and violated by the Obasanjo administration. In order words, not only is the new wage increase two years late, it is a mere half of the amount signed three years ago.

(vi) The new wage increase is a mere drop in the ocean considering the rapidly increasing cost of living and double-digit rate of inflation in the country as a result of government policies of deregulation, incessant fuel price increase, continuous devaluation of the naira, commercialisation of social services like education, health, telecommunications, hike in school fees, etc. Thus, even if the 12.5% increase is fully implemented, it will have extremely very little effect in improving living standards.

Because of the aforementioned reasons, we in the DSM believe that the 12.5% increase is the least that any private or public sector worker should be paid in the present circumstance.

Therefore, the DSM demands:

* At least 12.5% wage increase for all categories of workers, both in private and public sector and at federal, state and local council levels.* No retrenchment of any worker as a result of the implementation of the agreement.

We call on the trade unions and the NLC leadership at the national level in particular to emphatically reject the position of the governors and to immediately commence a mass mobilisation campaign to ensure the payment of the new wage increase across the board, for all categories of workers, and without any retrenchment.

SEGUN SANGO

General Secretary