Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

Niger State: CDWR Supports Workers’ Indefinite Strike for Full Payment

Niger State: CDWR Supports Workers’ Indefinite Strike for Full Payment

Don’t ‘Sit at home’, Labour Leaders in Niger State must organize constant mass protests and demonstrations until the demands are won

The National Leadership of the NLC and TUC should call a general strike and mass protest to back workers and pensioners in over 27 states whose salaries are either cut, unpaid or delayed.

Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) supports the indefinite strike action called by the leaderships of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Niger state to protest the refusal of the state government to pay full salaries of workers. The workers embarked on the action after the expiration of a two week ultimatum to the state government, which rather than meet the demands of the workers for full payment of salary and NOT 70%, sought to obtain a court injunction to stop the indefinite strike of the workers that commenced on Monday.

It is now over a year the All Progressive Congress (APC) government led by Abubakar Bello took over power from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Babangida Aliyu-led state government. Yet, the excuse of dwindling state allocation from the federal government has continued to be an easy excuse to which the state frequently resorts in order to shortchange workers.

But good enough the trade union leadership went on with the indefinite strike in defiance of a crooked court injunction hastily procured by the government. In a joint statement by the Chairman of the NLC, Idris Yahaya Ndako, and the Chairman of the TUC, Yunusa Tanimu, they both claimed that their strike is legal and since they are not protesting nobody can intimidate them.

The CDWR supports the strike fully and urge workers to mobilize for total shut down of the state secretariat and other key institutions where government will feel the effect of the workers’ strike. Also trade union leaders must learn from the mass protests and occupation by workers in Oyo state, which together with demonstrations of the mighty power the workers can exercise, has been crucial so far in defeating government’s effort to undermine the strike through intimidation of workers and their leaders.

Therefore to strengthen the ongoing strike in Niger, make it more effective and popularize it among the oppressed masses in the state, the CWDR urges the Niger state leaderships of the NLC and TUC to embark on a series of public activities like mass rallies, processions, protests and demonstrations round the state capital of Minna but also in other parts of Niger state. During these activities there should be mass circulation of leaflets in both English and local languages to highlight the endless suffering the masses are subjected to and why workers have to go on strike to demand improved workers’ welfare. We propose these steps because for a strike to succeed, it is essential that the support of the vast majority of the populace is won to the workers’ cause. Without doing this, the labour movement would unwittingly have created a loophole that the state government can exploit to undermine the strike by trying to create or encourage division between the organized workers and the oppressed masses.

In the same vein, CDWR calls on the national leadership of the NLC and TUC to match their words with action. In The Nation newspaper of Friday 15 July 2016, the NLC president Ayuba Wabba was quoted to have said “We will declare a state of emergency because workers should not be made to bear the brunt of the challenges because they are not responsible”.

We welcome the fact that the NLC leadership considers the situation so bad enough to warrant declaring a state of emergency. In at least 27 states out of 36, workers and retirees are being owed several months of salaries and pensions. In addition to owing salaries, many states like Bayelsa and Niger have decided to embark on a unilateral pay cut of workers’ salaries by paying workers between 50 and 70 % of their monthly pay. All of these developments portend grave dangers for the living condition of the working masses. In some states, retirees are owed as much as 64 months! As the NLC president clearly noted, labour cannot accept a situation where workers who did not benefit from the period of economic boom will now be subjected to hardship because of the prevailing economic crisis. Moreso, this economic crisis was not caused by the working and toiling masses. Rather this crisis was caused on the one hand by the chronic weakness of Nigeria’s neo-colonial capitalist economy especially its reliance on crude oil export for revenue and foreign exchange and on the other by the profligacy and corruption of Nigeria’s ruling elite.

The CDWR therefore demands an emergency meeting of the relevant organs of the NLC and TUC to appraise the dire situation workers are in with a view to declaring, as a first step, a 24 hour general strike and mass protest in solidarity with workers and retirees in over 27 states who are being owed several months of salaries and pensions. We propose the following key demands for the solidarity general strike:

(1) No to pay cut! No to Delays! For immediate payment of all backlog of salaries and pensions of workers and retirees in 27 states

(2) Withdraw all charges and politically-motivated trials against workers’ leaders. Halt all witch hunt and intimidations against workers and activists.

(3) Open the books! State governments claiming inability to pay must open their books for public scrutiny

(4) Place all political office holders on salary and allowances not more than that of a skilled worker.

(5) Cancel security votes and constituency allowances. Revoke all bogus contracts and review of the states’ debts.

(6) No to retrenchment in banks and other private employers of labour. For immediate nationalization under democratic workers control and management of any business, oil companies, banks and financial institutions declaring redundancies.

(7) A raise in the national minimum wage to an amount far higher than N56, 000 and to be constantly increased to match the inflation rate.

(8) Immediate and full implementation of the N500 billion social welfare programme contained in the 2016 budget.

(9) A monthly allowance for the unemployed.

(10) A crash public works programme to create decent and minimum wage jobs and rebuild public education, health care, electricity, transportation and other failed social infrastructures.

Chinedu Bosah
Publicity Secretary