Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

54% YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT: Labour Must Organise Youths for a Fight Back

54% YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT: Labour Must Organise Youths for a Fight Back

By Ayo Ademiluyi

Nigeria’s very young population is facing a grim future unless there is a rapid, radical change. Young people are the future, it is estimated that about 60% of Nigeria’s over 187 million inhabitants are under 25 year old. The danger is that if Labour does not fight for 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.

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 build youth networks with elected leadership from the shop-floor, subject to recall, without privileges and free from bureaucratic strappings.

It is good that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) recently organized a National Youth Conference and elected a formal leadership. This must not be a one-off affair but a step in building an all-rounded mass youth campaign within and outside the trade union movement structures. The elected leadership must also be subject to recall and democratically-controlled by the rank-and-file young workers and unemployed youths with democratic control of resources to be channeled into serious mass campaigning on day-to-day issues that affect working class youth.

The labour movement must take up a mass campaign against mass unemployment. We must not succumb to the argument of the bosses and government that the economy is in recession and cannot create jobs. The labour movement should demand that the “jumbo pay” of elected public office holders and top management staff of private companies 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 an end to contract 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 a vibrant national body of students that resists such attacks.

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 yearning for a fight back in the face of attacks on living standard through one neo-liberal policies or the other. All these will help redirect youths from ethnic and religious strife and tensions into arena of struggles against capitalist attacks and for a better future.