Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

OYO WORKERS: Heroic Struggle for Minimum Wage In The Teeth Of Labour Leaders’ Treachery

OYO WORKERS: Heroic Struggle for Minimum Wage In The Teeth Of Labour Leaders’ Treachery

By Abbey Trotsky

As we go to press, the strike of Oyo workers for the across-board implementation of the N18, 000 minimum wage has been suspended on Thursday April 5 2012, following the desire by the ACN-led State government to have another round of talks after previous attempts to impose a rotten deal was defeated. The strike which began on March 19 lasted for 17 days and paralyzed activities in the state secretariat and public workplaces!

On Monday, March 24th, 2012, the strike took a more radical turn following a town hall meeting between the Governor and the entire work force in the state. The meeting which was purposely scheduled to bring to an end the industrial dispute was a deadlocked as the executive of the Joint Public Service Negotiating Committee (JPSNC) refused to sign the newly presented salary table by Senator Abiola Ajimobi – the Oyo State Governor.

The JPSNC, known to be incorrigible allies of the government, did refuse to sign the scale presented by the government because of the stiff opposition put up by the mass of the workers who insisted that the table must not be signed until it is certified by a workers congress. Given this, the executive had no other option especially when their legitimacy as a negotiating body was still being questioned by workers who few weeks ago had unceremoniously dissolved them at a congress. Immediately after the town hall meeting, workers in their thousands trooped to the Oyo secretariat of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) where an emergency congress moderated by the Fasasi–led caretaker committee was held.

At this congress workers overwhelmingly rejected the newly presented table because there existed no substantial difference between the new table and the one earlier rejected. According to the new table, the vast majority of workers that belong to the grade level 6-17 only have addition of N500 to the initial amount presented for the same categories in the salary table released on the March 14, 2012. This is in addition to the special TSS allowance for teachers which is still missing in the newly presented table.

The congress therefore set up a technical committee comprising representatives of the executive of JPSNC and some members of the committees set up by the congress to design a table that will reflect the aspirations of the generality of Oyo State workers. The congress also resolved to reinstate the dissolved executive of JPSNC who were mandated to make a public declaration of their undiluted support for the continuity of the strike.


It would be recalled that workers went on a series of strikes and protests last year. The state indeed recorded the first mass protests of workers anywhere in the country against the refusal of all state governors to implement the N18, 000 minimum wage. The struggle got to a head on July 8 2011 when the workers suspended the trade union leaders for their connivance with the state government which had offered the N9, 400 “relativity pay” as against N18, 000 minimum wage. Just like now, a congressional committee was inaugurated by the workers to lead the struggle for the full implementation. The Labour leaders were however later reinstated on July 21, 2011 and mandated to immediately declare an indefinite strike for the full implementation of the minimum wage.

That indefinite strike, which lasted five days, compelled the government to hurriedly offer a proposal that N13,500 minimum wage would be paid for the month of June and July, 2011 with the arrears on whatever the labour/government negotiation agreed upon as minimum wage structure in the state to be paid at the end of August. Unfortunately, since July 2011, there had been a frustratingly criminal silence from both the government and the Labour leaders until March 14, 2012, when the ACN state government of Abiola Ajimobi eventually released the new salary scale. According to this fraudulent salary scale, the basic salary of the lowest-paid workers in the state will be N10, 405 as against N18, 000.

This is contrary to government’s claim that it had started paying N19, 113. The N19, 113 minimum wage is just the total sum of N10, 405.00 basic salary and allowances like rent (4,682.25), transport (1,945.74), meal subsidy (1,040.50) and utility (1,040). Besides, this increase is only substantial for the salaries of workers on Grade Levels 1 to 4, but there are only extremely few on these levels in the workforce. The vast majority of workers, who are above these grade levels, only have ridiculous amount like N1, 000, N2, 000 or N3, 000 added to their salaries. Also for the teachers, their special allowance, TSS, which took them several months of struggle to win, was removed from the new salary scale.


This is the background to the resumption of strike action after March 19 2012. At a joint congress held on March 16, 2012, the workers overwhelmingly rejected the new salary scale. The workers who belong to the affiliate unions of both the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) also again removed the leaderships of the labour centres in Oyo as their representatives in the negotiations with government. The executive of the Joint Public Service Negotiating Committee (JPSNC) was also dissolved. The joint congress of workers took this action against the official trade union leaders for selling them out in negotiation with the government.

The Congress therefore set up a caretaker committee to prosecute the struggle in the true interests of the workers who have been boycotting work and converging at the NLC secretariat daily since March 19, 2012. This current industrial action which is being waged independently of the official labour leadership has enjoyed massive support.


The DSM, whose members have been actively involved in the workers’ action, commends the determination and steadfastness of the workers. With correct strategies and approaches the strike can win. While announcing the suspension of the strike for two weeks starting from 5 April 2012, the workers resolved to hold congresses every Friday to follow up the negotiation. This is an important step to prevent betrayal. Workers must mandate the leadership to always come back to congress for its approval before any agreement or salary scale should be signed with government.

However despite the determination of workers, the isolation of the struggle as a result of lack of solidarity by the national leadership of Labour would limit the extent the workers could go before becoming struggle weary. We therefore call on the national Labour leadership to give a very active support to Oyo state workers and help them win the struggle without any of the workers losing their jobs. A victory in Oyo would help motivate the workers in other states, who have either been denied the minimum wage or subjected to rotten deal, to rise up in the struggle for full implementation. The Labour leadership should indeed initiate a national action to compel all the governments to fully implement the new minimum wage.

Also important is the example already set by Oyo State workers of how the obstacles which the trade union bureaucracy often put in the path of workers struggle can be dismantled. The election of the “caretaker committee” by the Oyo state workers, just like the previous “congressional committee” formed last year, to prosecute the struggle independently of official Labour leadership offers a bold example of how the rank and file workers can begin to take the control of the trade union.