Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



Time to fight casualization, poverty wages, mass unemployment and underfunded education

We of the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) welcome the decision of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to adopt a Youth Policy and convene a National Youth Conference on this year’s commemoration of the International Youth Day.

This meeting is being held against the background of what is widely seen as a grave economic and social crisis gripping the country. Nigeria’s very young population is facing a grim future unless there is rapid, radical change. Young people are the future, it is estimated that about 60% of Nigeria’s over 187 million inhabitants are under 25 years old. The danger is that if Labour does not show a real future for youth, other forces will exploit the inevitable anger and frustration at the dire situation young Nigerians face.

This is why we have consistently argued that the labour movement must play a decisive role to provide a formidable and serious mass campaign for employment as well as adequate funding of education in the country. This would mean that this initiative must not be limited to the youths organized in the trade unions alone but also include unemployed youths and students.

In building a mass campaign in this regard, we also call on the labour movement not to make the task of public engagement of young working people a one-off thing by only organizing a two-day event over September 14 and 15. If we are serious then this conference must mark the beginning of a determined drive to build a movement and also set targets of what should be achieved. We propose that, from this conference, committees at state and national levels as well as at workplaces and communities are rapidly formed to organize a series of mass activities and take up struggles on issues that affect young people as well as general social and economic crises in the country.

We hold that the labour movement must engage young workers in the trade unions in order to build a mass campaign against casualization, indecent work, mass retrenchment and poverty wages. Young workers at workplaces/factories who are able to secure jobs are largely employed as casuals, especially in private sector industry, where unionization is equally suppressed by the bosses and management. At the workplaces, they also face poor working conditions with poverty wages and most workplaces lack proper health and safety measures. The result is regular occurrence of avoidable workplace injuries and most times, occupational deaths.

To add insult to injury, the bosses in the banking, food/beverage, manufacturing and telecommunication industry have embarked on mass retrenchment of workers. In building a viable youth work in the trade union movement that can defend young workers, trade union affiliates should be encouraged to build youth networks with elected leadership from the shop-floor, subject to recall, without privileges and free from bureaucratic strappings. Specifically, the Nigeria Labour Congress should organize a National Youth Network with elected leadership, subject to recall and democratically-controlled by the rank-and-file young workers and unemployed youths, that has the resources to begin serious campaigning.

We call on the labour movement to take up a mass campaign against mass unemployment. We must not succumb to the argument of the bosses and government that the economy is “technically” in recession and cannot create jobs. The labour movement should demand that the “jumbo pay” of elected public office holders be cut to average wage of skilled civil servants to reflect that both workers and the bosses are in recession. The labour movement should also demand end to the contracting system, through which huge public funds are handed out like “Christmas gifts” to party faithful, privileged individuals and demand that public services and provision of public infrastructure should be adequately funded and executed through public works programme in order to generate jobs for millions of young unemployed people.

We also call on the labour movement to take up the challenge of the campaign for the rebuilding of a vibrant, fighting and pro-working people students’ movement that forges alliance in struggle with the labour movement as was the case in the 1970’s and 1980’s for a well-funded quality public education that meets global standards for youth from working class homes. This becomes necessary in the face of the virulent attacks on public education and the absence of such a vibrant fighting labour movement that resists such attacks. While the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommends that a minimum of 26(twenty-six) percent of the budgets of government across the world be allocated to education, less than 10 percent is currently allocated under the 2016 budget. It is necessary to rebuild a vibrant fighting students’ movement that can build strategic alliances with the labour movement to fight these attacks and struggles for a well-funded quality public education.

We hold that the labour movement must also urgently provide the vocal leadership to restless wave of agitation among the broad layers of the working masses against galloping rate of inflation, spate of unpaid salaries and the unacceptable poverty minimum wage by calling a 48hr warning nationwide general strike and mass protests to serve a notice that nonpayment of salaries and pensions or retrenchment of workers will be met with a bitter showdown by mass of Nigerian workers. The labour movement must take these proactive steps to revalidate its fighting image as the vanguard of the Nigerian working masses at this period that many are yawning for a fightback in the face of attacks on living standard through one neo-liberal policies or the other. All this will help redirect youths from ethnic and religious strifes and tensions into arena of struggles against capitalist attacks and for a better future.

Chinedu Bosah
Publicity Secretary
E-mail: [email protected]