Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM




The Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) felicitates with workers in Nigeria and the world in these trying times of global pandemic and economic crises occasioned by sustained attacks on the living standards of workers. As we celebrate 2021 Workers’ Day Nigerian workers and trade union leaders should draw a balance sheet of the state of the trade union and how to adequately resist the ongoing attacks and crises facing the country.

Employers of labour (private and public) are using the COVID-19 pandemic to drive down wages and attack living standards. Job losses and unemployment keep soaring daily, many who are lucky to keep their jobs have been forced to earn lower wage despite being hit by high inflationary rate.

The N30,000 minimum wage was passed into law in April 2019, yet twenty-two (22) months after, 18 states have not implemented it, in fact, some states have not implemented N18,000 minimum wage passed into law in 2011. Besides, the value of the N30,000 minimum wage has been largely eroded by the ever-rising cost of living. Hence, there is the need for a new higher minimum wage for workers considering the rising cost of living. CDWR calls for an adequate minimum wage that will be adjusted automatically to reflect the rate of inflation and the rising cost of living. However, the response of labour leadership to the non-implementation of the minimum wage has been abysmally poor, the best coming from labour are empty threats. CDWR has proposed sustained mass action and warning general strike to kick start a campaign to force the governors to pay.

In the same vein, public sector workers have come under severe attack in many states of the federation. For instance, Kaduna State government has become vicious against workers since the year 2015, El-Rufai sacked 21,000 workers in 2017 and introduced a 25% pay cut in 2020. A few weeks back, Governor Nasir El-Rufai announced the sacking of 4,000 workers, placed an embargo on recruitment and restricted local government staff to a maximum of 50, placed compulsory retirement of workers who are 50 years and above and conversion of workers on Grade Level 01-06 to casual workers. CDWR condemns these attacks and demands their reversal. So far, since 2015, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) at the state and national levels have responded poorly to these attacks and this had emboldened Governor El-Rufai to intensify the attacks. Should Labour (NLC and TUC) still fail to resist these attacks, other states will be motivated to do the same if not worse.

The NLC has threatened to embark on a “five-day national industrial action” if Nasir El-Rufai proceeds with his plans to sack workers. We welcome this but hope this time around, it is not the usual empty threat issued in the past. Therefore to give bite to this threat, the CDWR challenges the NLC and TUC to mobilize for a one-day warning general strike as a first step and to be escalated as the situation develops in order to build strength which has been severely weakened since the suspension of the September 28, 2020 general strike. Demands in such national action must also cover non-implementation of minimum wage by some states and private employers, mass sacks in Kaduna State, casualization in the private sector, hike in electricity tariff and petrol prices, growing state of insecurity, massive corruption in government etc. Unless the labour leaderships are prepared to struggle and resist all anti-labour policies, government and employers of labour will intensify attacks on working and living standards.

There is a growing casualization and contract staffing policy in the private sector that has placed many Nigerian workers in poor working conditions and insecure employment and simultaneously secures massive profit for the capitalist. Currently, workers are being sacked and forced into casual status or replaced with another set of casual workers on poorer working conditions. Many workers are owed a backlog of salaries and disengagement entitlements. Many employers violate the Pension Reform Act, 2014 by deducting and not remitting to Pension Fund Administrators or refusing to implement it while the NLC and TUC fail to intervene. Many cases of infractions reported to National Pension Commission (PENCOM) are left unattended to leaving employers of labour to continue the violation. All these attacks are taking place unchallenged because the trade unions have largely abandoned their responsibility. The most painful is the fact that many factory and construction workers want to join a union to enable them to fight back but some top labour leaders are either disinterested in organizing the workers or shamelessly reach a deal with company owners not to unionize workers.

Nigeria has low productive capacity because past and present bourgeois governments and the capitalist ruling elites have looted resources meant to develop basic infrastructure and industries while society has been configured on exploitation. The contract system has become one major avenue of looting public resources. The budgetary allocations to healthcare, education etc., have been abysmally low while jumbo salaries and privileges for top political office holders and private companies have been scandalously high. Electricity tariff and petrol prices are regularly hiked, something that contributes to increasingly high production cost and high cost of living. Unfortunately, the labour leadership are not engaging the capitalist ruling elite to resist this broad-day robbery but rather choose to enter strategic alliance at the expense of workers and the poor masses.

On the occasion of the 2021 May Day, CWDR calls on the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to go beyond mere sloganeering and issuance of empty threats and begin the mobilization of workers and masses to resist these attacks. All past compromises, social partnership and illusions in the benevolence of the government and employers are no more tenable. The only way to seriously defend workers interests is through mass struggle.

The country is facing a serious crisis, it is the working people, young, the old and the poor who pay the price. This cannot be allowed to continue. We call on workers and trade union activists to always mount pressure on labour leaders, hold them to account and demand a truly democratically run union in order to ensure there are leaders that always act in the interests of workers. To do this requires building an active rank and file that not only holds leaders to account but is also willing and able to take initiatives when necessary.

By and large, to fundamentally end this iniquitous, self-serving and parasitic capitalist rule, in addition to struggle against anti-poor policies and for better conditions, the working people have to struggle to defeat capitalism and enthrone a socialist order. This will require the formation and building a mass political party of working people and the poor on a socialist program. Hence, we call on Nigerian workers, trade unions and pro-masses organisations to build such a mass political party.  So far the labour leaders have not wanted to take this step. The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) has been both arguing for building such a party and also working to construct the foundations for a mass party to wrest power from self-serving, corrupt and exploiting capitalist ruling class. This is why we call on all those wanting to help create the force that can transform Nigeria in the interests of working people to join in building the SPN as a step towards socialist liberation from capitalism.

Comrade Rufus Olusesan

National Chairperson

Comrade Chinedu Bosah

National Publicity Secretary

E-mail: [email protected]