CDWR CALLS ON THE NLC TO STRUGGLE FOR LIVING WAGE/PENSION, DECENT WORK AND BUILD A POLITICAL ALTERNA
AS NLC HOLDS 11thDELEGATES’ CONFERENCE:
CDWR CALLS ON THE NLC TO STRUGGLE FOR LIVING WAGE/PENSION, DECENT WORK AND BUILD A POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE FOR THE WORKING CLASS
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) felicitate with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its affiliates as its National Delegate Conference comes up on February 10 and 11, 2015 in Abuja.
The Delegate Conference that will usher in new leadership is taking place few days before the 2015 general election and at a time the working masses are facing untoward economic hardship due to implementation of neo-liberal capitalist policies that places more priority on monumental profit for a privileged few at the expense of the vast majority.
The N18,000 Minimum Wage that was passed into law in 2011 is yet to be fully implemented by both the state governments and the federal governments. The working class creates wealth but do not enjoy the full benefits of their labour let alone manage the distribution of the wealth. Besides, the ruling elite and political office holders enjoys jumbo salary and allowance that runs into tens of millions of Naira monthly, it legislated on a poverty wage of N18,000. The NLC leadership is yet to pursue any sustained struggle that challenged the government at all levels including the private sector employers to fully implement the minimum wage. The Labour leaders both at the national and state levels had in the past only engaged mostly in verbal threats and diplomacy, all of which have failed. Unfortunately this situation is made even worse the N18,000 minimum wage itself is a poverty wage that should not have been accepted. The NLC leaders ought to have struggled for a living wage of N50,200 they set as Labour’s demand back in December 2008 and for this to be increased in line with the rate of inflation. The minimum wage is supposed to be reviewed after 4 years but it puts to question the ability of the Labour leaders to struggle for an upward review when it has failed to struggle for the implementation of the existing wage. An upward review of the N18,000 minimum wage to a living wage is more than ever before desirable considering the fact that the recent devaluation of Naira and other neo-liberal policies keep engendering inflation and rising cost of living that have drastically undermined the workers’ wage and already unacceptable living standard of the working masses. The CDWR calls on the Delegates’ Conference to thoroughly discuss the minimum wage with an agenda to embark on sustained mass mobilization of workers, pro-labour organizations and working masses in general in a struggle to ensure the upward review of the present N18,000 minimum wage to a living wage and reduction of jumbo salaries and allowances of political office holders to civil service wage structure.
Casualisation is fast growing and the trade unions have refused to fight it. Casualisation is not only rampant in factories, it is now major policy thrust vigorously pursued in the banking sector, oil and gas and even public sector in the pursuit for lower wage for workers and more profit for the employers. The government has invested over N3 trillion to bail out top bank chiefs since 2009 who squandered and looted the industry blind and yet workers are made to pay the price through loss of jobs, casualization of jobs and other forms of attacks. Not only that millions of workers have been subjected to unsecured and unregularised employment, workers are deprived of union rights. For instance, Osun State Youth Employment Scheme (OYES), a scheme replicated in several states have youths employed for paltry taxable salary of N10,000 with no right to join a union of their choice. In many factories/workplaces, the union leaders struck a deal with management to deduct union dues from casual workers as a compromise to allow casualization.
Many workers are currently subjected to dangerous working condition that has led to the death of workers and serious health conditions. It will be a disservice to workers should the NLC Delegate Conference conclude without a concrete plan to lead a campaign and fight against poor working condition, casualization and to win the right of all workers to join union of their choices.
Privatization of pension scheme unfortunately supported by labour leaders will spell more doom for retirees who have been forced to contribute to pension from their meager salary while employers including government have mostly surrendered their responsibility to guarantee workers living pension. The contributory pension scheme has only succeeded in creating huge funds for private companies to profit from. The previous public pension scheme was bureaucratically managed such that gives room to looting and mismanagement. Adequate pension funds must be squarely set aside by government and private employers from unpaid labour surplus as at when due and these funds must be managed democratically by workers and pensioners to forestall corruption and guarantee efficiency. The CDWR strongly holds that the only sustainable form of pension for workers is through planning of society and geared towards massive investment in basic infrastructure (housing, health etc.,) to meet the needs of pensioners and all. The NLC Delegate Conference must reject the exploitative contributory pension scheme and demand living pension for all workers to be increased in line with the rate of inflation.
The Delegate Conference will not be complete if it does not reject neo-liberal capitalist policies and program in all its ramification and embrace a working class political agenda. The postponement of the general election is a sign of Nigeria’s deepening crisis but the trade union movement is not presenting an independent alternative to the present capitalist rot. In the election campaign many of the trade union leaders are pitching tent with one bourgeois political party or the other and hereby acting as bellboy to bourgeois candidates while abandoning the historical responsibility of building a movement that defends the socio-political and economic interest of the working class. The pro-establishment political parties through electoral campaigns have clearly stated that anti-poor, neo-liberal policies of privatization, deregulation and commercialization will continue unabatedly. This is a clear pointer that more attacks and hardship await the working people, considering the drastic slump of crude oil price and devaluation of Naira as well as the fact that the ruling class will not surrender a significant portion of their privileges and interests. The CDWR calls on the NLC Delegate Conference to resolve on forming a new political party for the working class and poor that can mobilise support for socialist programs aimed at harnessing all natural and human resources to meet the needs all. The party must be committed to a program where the commanding heights of the economy are nationalized, planned and placed under democratic control and management of the working people. This is to ensure that there are adequate resources to guarantee provisions of quality education, health care, decent jobs, housing, etc for the vast majority of Nigerians as well as infrastructure development.