Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

DSM Calls on Working Masses to Support the General Strike for a Decent National Minimum Wage and Reversal of electricity tariff increase.

We call on Labour not to restrict the Strike to a Stay-at-Home Action but Hold a Series of Mass Actions.

The struggle must also call for Reversal of Anti-People Policies of the Tinubu Government.

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) welcomes the decision of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to embark on an indefinite general strike from Monday June 3 over the failure of the Bola Tinubu-led government to meet their ultimatum to conclude negotiations on the new national minimum wage by May 31. The ultimatum was issued on the May Day after the negotiation had already dragged into months without any acceptable result. We call on workers and the working masses in general to support the strike action.

It is, at least, a positive development that the latest ultimatum by the Labour leadership has not gone the way of the previous one issued over the excruciating cost-of-living crisis and which expired on March 13, without the NLC leadership saying a single word, let alone mobilising for a mass action.

However, we are of the opinion that the Labour leadership should have first adequately mobilized both the public and private sector workers, and other categories of the working-class people to support the action, before declaring the strike. Having failed to do this it is therefore important that the strike must not be limited to a stay-at-home action. Rather, we call on the Labour leadership to immediately initiate the setting up of action committees at the national, state and local levels, that should also include representatives of left and pro-labour civil society organisations, to organize a series of mass mobiliisation and sensitization activities during the strike. These should include mass meetings, leafleting and protests. The Labour leadership should realize that without such mass engagements, the strike may not enjoy enough mass support of formal and informal workers, especially given the past failure of labour leadership on previous struggles. Besides, absence of mass actions to popularise the strike and its demands, exposes working masses to government propaganda against the strike

It is good that the Labour leadership also include in the demands of the strike the reversal of the increase in the electricity tariff for a category of electricity consumers. However, the Labour leadership should go beyond this, and include the demand for reversal of failed electricity privatization, the main policy behind incessant tariff increase. In addition, the demands must also include the reversal of petrol price to pre-May 29 2023 level, the recent wave of increase in fees at public higher institutions and other anti-poor policies as well as adequate funding of public education and health care. This is also important because it is these demands that address plight of the vast majority of the working people who earn a living in the informal sector of the economy. Besides, whatever the amount of money that is eventually won as the new national minimum wage would be eroded by inflation and high cost of living, including on basic needs like food, energy, education and health care, which are triggered by anti-poor capitalist policies.

Action is certainly needed to get out of this mess. The country is in a continuing state of deep crisis seen in collapsing living standards, while large parts of the economy are imploding, society shows signs of disintegration yet this neo-liberal government proposes nothing serious to even ease this situation but has time to change the national anthem. As if singing a different song will change anything!

We also call on the Labour leadership to be prepared that it may require a protracted struggle to win a decent wage. This is why we have proposed a 48-hour general strike and mass protest to both press home the demand and win the public support as the first step. We think this is a better approach than, as the first step, an unprepared indefinite action, which may put the Labour under pressure to suspend without achieving its demands. This is especially important in the case of this strike which is not preceded by mass sensitization and mobilization. However, if this strike action is suspended before a decent wage is won then the Labour leadership must begin mass mobilisation for another strike. It is also important for Labour leadership to be prepared to resist any possible retrenchment, which could be the reaction of the government and private sector employers to wage increments.

We also call on the Labour leadership to change from their old way of handling the minimum wage struggle. The struggle does not end with winning a national minimum wage. More is needed to enforce its implementation especially at the state level. It is disheartening that while a new national minimum wage ought to have come into effect, some states have not even started implementing the old N30,000 won by Labour five year ago and which has already been rendered extremely worthless by inflation. For instance, Zamfara state’s governor just recently unashamedly announced that the state would begin the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage in June, 2024, over five years since it was passed into law! This sad situation is largely made possible because the national Labour leadership usually leave the weak state councils alone to fight for the implementation of the wage agreement instead of developing a centrally coordinated programme of actions.

Also importantly, the struggle for a new minimum wage and against anti-poor capitalist policies must be linked with the need for building a mass working people party on a socialist programme which is formidable enough to wrest the political power from the capitalist ruling elite regardless of which faction or section is in government. It is clear that all the sections of the capitalist elite fundamentally support the same capitalist policies responsible for the current cost of living crisis and none of them, including those in the Labour Party, has supported the demand of Nigerian workers for a living wage. It is good that the NLC is making an effort to reclaim the Labour Party. But this would be worthwhile if only it eventually leads to the transformation of the party into a genuine mass working people political alternative which is consistently against capitalist policies and only seeks power in order to plan to use the country’s human and material resources for the benefit of the vast majority.

So far, the Labour leadership has not gone beyond radical words and token actions. This can demoralize both trade unionists and those who used to look to Labour for answers. The DSM has long called for the trade unions to become democratic, campaigning bodies with a fighting leadership committed to socialist ideas. We invite all those willing to help in this work to contact us, discuss our ideas and join with us in building a Labour movement that fights for getting rid of this failing capitalist system.

Peluola Adewale
Organising Secretary
For the DSM.