TOTAL SUPPORT FOR THE NLC AND TUC DEMAND!
Joint Action Forum (JAF)
TOTAL SUPPORT FOR THE NLC AND TUC DEMAND!
STRUGGLE FOR THE IMMEDIATE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE N18,000 NEW MINIMUM WAGE!!
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE WORKERS, YOUTHS AND THE POOR IN THE COMMUNITIES SHOULD GIVE MAXIMUM MASS SUPPORT TO THE NEW MINIMUM WAGE ACT!!
Being text of the Press Conference by the leadership of the Joint Action Forum (JAF) held in Lagos, Wednesday, July 6, 2011
From May 13 â€“ October 29th 2009 the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress(TUC), and the Joint Action Forum (JAF) on the platform of Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) organised a series of enlightenment and awareness mass rallies/protests across the country (Lagos, Asaba, Kano, Maiduguri, Enugu, Makurdi, Ibadan and Abuja). This engagement, which drew tens of thousands of labor activists, unions and civil society groups as well as the mass of the Nigerian people, was centered on three critical areas of our national life. These were issues of:
- a new minimum wage for the Nigerian worker,
- the need for a credible election in 2011, and
- rejection of the policy of deregulation (a neo-liberal paradigm that has been responsible for the economic woes and impoverishment of our people).
Following the heat generated by these popular actions, the Federal Government was compelled to set up the Justice Belgore Negotiation Council that comprised government’s representatives, private sector employers and organized labor. The thirty six states’ Governors also made presentations to the Negotiation Council. These negotiations which lasted almost one year led to an AGREEMENT by all the parties concerned on a new minimum wage of N18,000.00 only, down from the initial labor demand of N52,200 that was served to Government in December 2008.
It was also agreed that a new minimum wage bill should be prepared by the federal government and sent to the National Assembly. This was eventually done after several ultimatums by Labour and other agitations championed by LASCO, including the 3- Day Warning Strike of November 10-12, 2010 that was suspended on the afternoon of November 11th following the pledge by President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure the expeditious passage of the Minimum Wage Bill into law.
As of today, the sum of N18,000 as national minimum wage has become a law and thus mandatory and obligatory for all the tiers of government and private sector employers with 50 or more employees to pay.
Members of the press, it is no news to note that all the efforts and sacrifices made by labour and its allies in the months leading to this agreement are sadly being undermined by the unlawful and reprehensible attitude of both the federal and state governments who are now frantically working against agreements reached and duly signed by them. This issue clearly borders on the integrity of institutions of governance and the integrity of those who run them. The insistence of the governors on conditions for the implementation of the minimum wage is clearly disappointing, deceitful, dishonest, and clearly an invitation to anarchy. To suggest that the removal of the fictitious fuel subsidy should be the basis for implementation of the new minimum wage is clearly indicative that the governors are living in a world absolutely different from ours. The motivation for this kind of thinking is worrying as it shows that the guiding philosophy of the ruling political elites is absolutely contemptuous of the people, indifferent and unfeeling on the terrible living conditions of our people brought about by the ineptitude and greed of the political class both civil and military.
Consequently, the Joint Action Forum (JAF) totally welcomes and supports the decision of Labour (NLC and TUC) to intensify the minimum wage struggle with a two-week ultimatum issued last week to the state and federal governments to implement the new national minimum wage, and the plan to embark on TOTAL STRIKE should governments refused to meet the demand.
We strongly hold that the governments do not have any tenable reason not to pay the new minimum wage. The new National Minimum Wage is a law and therefore it is an obligation for the governments to implement. No responsible government must select which law to obey or disregard.
We reject the subterfuge of the state governments to make the review of the revenue allocation formula the pre-condition for the implementation. It should be noted that the extant allocation formula was put into consideration before N18, 000 was arrived at as the minimum wage. Indeed, some state governors proposed N30,000 and above as the minimum wage to the Justice Belgore Negotiation Council. Besides, top functionaries of Government at all levels have been collecting jumbo pays, even higher than the already outrageous figures approved by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), without a review of the revenue allocation formula. Just on the basis of RMAFC approved emolument, as of 2009, 16,540 political office holders collected N1.02trillion (about $7bn) a year. (Please note that advisers and assistants are not inclusive). This shows that there are enough resources to pay the new minimum wage.
This position was recently supported by the one who should know better – the immediate past chairman of RMAFC, Hamman Tukur, who revealed recently in Kaduna that state governments are rich enough to implement the new minimum wage. He was quoted in the various newspapers to have said, “The governors will come to Abuja and say that they don’t have money. The money they collect from the Federation Account alone is far more than enough to pay their workers“.
Also, we reject the proposal of the state governments to the federal government that the fuel subsidy should be removed in order for them to be able to pay the new minimum wage. This has further shown that the elements in government at all levels are anti-poor. This is tantamount to robbing a man in order to pay the debt you owe him.
We challenge the state governors, if truly they need more resources to pay the new wage, to cut down the outrageously high salaries and allowances of the political office holders in order to free up more resources that could be used not only to augment the cost of the new wage but also the provision of social programmes like education and health care.
It should be recalled that recently, the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, announced that he was reducing his security votes from the whopping N6.5bn to N2.5bn in order to fund public education in the state. We challenge all the state governors to disclose publicly what they pay themselves as security votes and what are the funds being used for. The security votes are slush funds as they are not backed by any appropriation act or approved by RMFAC.
More importantly, while we commend Okorocha for this uncommon “good gesture”:
- we call for the scrapping of security votes and demand that such funds should be spent on social program and infrastructure development.
- We categorically call for the reduction in the jumbo pays of all political office holders against the background of widely read and scandalous reports, that while a senator and member of the House of Representatives in a wobbling and unproductive economy like Nigeria collect $1.7m and $1.2million per annum respectively, the salary of the President of United States, the world’s biggest economy is $400,000 per annum!
JAF is resolved to join Labour to resist any attempt by Government to worsen the burden on Nigerians who already groan under the heavy cost of education, health care, water and electricity they have to provide for themselves as a result of the anti-poor policies of the irresponsible and thieving ruling elite.
Therefore, we call on:
- state and federal government to begin the implementation of the new wage immediately in order to avoid industrial unrest and anarchy in the country just a few weeks after their assumption of office.
- the federal government to make kerosene available and ensure that it is sold at the official price of N50 per litre. It is appalling that kerosene which is used by the poorest section of the society has become scarce and sold at exorbitant prices for the past two months without government being able to fix the problem. This makes it a height of insensitivity and irresponsibility on the part of state governors to demand the removal of subsidy at a period when the product has already gone beyond the reach of ordinary people.
- the government to make the existing refineries functional and build new ones in order to ensure that not only kerosene is always available but also other petroleum products. However, from experience of what have been spent in the past on the turnaround maintenance of the refineries which have only gone down the drain, we have realized that it is not enough to demand provision of public funds for refineries. We therefore demand that elected committees of workers and relevant professionals are involved in the process of maintaining refineries and building of the new ones.
We also frown at the decision of the government to increase the electricity tariff when there has not been improvement in the electricity generation. The argument given by the government for increasing the tariff which is to attract investors into power sector has only further shown that the government is out to gratify the quest for super profit by the so-called investors who usually are fronts of elements in the government at the gross expense of ordinary people. It should be recalled since June 2010 the tariff has increased from N6 to N10. Yet, over the period the electricity has only got worse. In a situation where the consumers are only issued estimated bills on a monthly basis, it means that the people will be mad to pay more and more for the electricity not consumed.
JAF shall continue to campaign against outrageous electricity tariff and planned privatization of PHCN. We call on Labour to:
- include the issues of kerosene and electricity tariff as parts of the demands of the struggle. The new minimum wage is about cost of living and therefore any action or inaction of government which is a threat to the living conditions of the people must be of the uppermost concern of Labour leadership.
- We call on all workers, youths, students, traders, artisans, etc to support the struggle of Labour to compel the government to pay the new minimum wage. We also call on Labour to set up strike committees at the national level, state, individual industrial unions and workplaces to coordinate and mobilize mass support for the strike.
THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES
We shall work closely with labour to ensure that no worker loses his or her jobs on the account of the implementation of the minimum wage.
We call on the working people to consistently resist the anti-poor neo-liberal attacks and mass suffering inflicted on them by the thieving ruling elite, irrespective of political parties, in spite of huge human and material resources the country is richly endowed with.
The victory over minimum wage, if achieved, can only bring momentary relief as there are mountains of neo-liberal attacks on living and working conditions to contend with. Therefore, we are resolved to campaign against underfunding of education, health care, power, etc whose alternative provision by people for themselves in the face of failure of government has continued to eat deeply into the income, while those that cannot afford the cost are left to rot in lurch.
We also, note the unanimity at which all the major political parties in power at different levels support the attacks on the living conditions of the people like removal of subsidy and non-implementation of minimum wage shows they are all fundamentally the same in orientation and program. Hence, JAF will continue to campaign and work towards the formation for a mass working people political alternative which is formidable enough to contend and win political power at all levels with the aim and program of using the resources of the country for the benefit of the vast majority of the populace.
DR. OLADIPO FASHINA (Chairperson)
Comrade ABIODUN AREMU (Secretary)
10 Afolabi Lesi Street, Anthony-Ilupeju Lagos
email: [email protected]