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For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

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Socialist Democracy March 2004




After picketing, protests by workers that led to the disruption of activities in many companies of Steel, Metal, Iron Products and Electricity industry, the Association of Metal Products, Iron and Steel Employers of Nigeria (AMPISEN), the umbrella body of the employers in the industry, on the 8th January 2004, signed a collective agreement with the workers' union, the Steel and Engineering Workers' Union of Nigeria, SEWUN.

It would be recalled that the "minimum" wage before the signing of the agreement was N4,000 as basic salary per month and N2,000 per month each for housing and transport. As a result of struggle waged by workers and the leadership of SEWUN, the employers/management were forced to concede increase of N1,000 to the "old" wage excluding N2,500 housing and N2,500 transport for all workers in the industry.

The refusal of employers/management to meet with the demands of SEWUN had led to the breakdown and delay, for months, in the negotiation. The delay of the negotiation has shown to workers the length to which the employers/management can go in order to defend their selfish interest and profit.

Looking at the agreement itself, despite the increment in wage, the entire "slave" wage is still low compared to the amount of labour/service rendered by workers and the output in production. Considering the high inflationary rate, coupled with the other anti-working peoples' policies of the government such as incessant hike in fuel prices, arbitrary increment in school fees, high cost of living etc, the increment will soon be eroded and there would still be continuous poverty among the workers.

Also, the employers/management will stop at nothing to take back with the right hand what they have been forced to give with the left hand unless there is vigilance and determination by workers and the union leadership. Many workers may be unjustly retrenched while tens of thousand workers will be faced with issues of cheap labour, casualisation, non-conducive working environment, non-payment and backlog of workers salary etc.

The national leadership of SEWUN should start the mobilisation of workers, as a matter of urgency, to ensure the implementation of the agreement in all companies as well as on other issues affecting the living and working conditions of the working people. Based on the present system, where the means of production is to make profit for the minority and not to satisfy the needs of the majority, within the two-year effective period of the agreement, more attacks await the workers of the industry if the union refuses to provide a fighting leadership.

The major lesson of this agreement is that victory comes through struggle. If we mobilise, organise and fight for our right, there is possibility of winning, rather than remaining a living corpse with continuous attacks while our problems/sufferings continue. It pays to struggle.



Socialist Democracy March 2004