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24 October 2018
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) welcomes the decision of the leadership of the labour movement under the three labour centres (NLC, TUC and ULC) to declare national strike on November 6, 2018, over the failure of the government and the employers to accede to a modest N30,000 (thirty thousand naira) as the new national minimum wage.
We also commend the plan to hold a nationwide protest on October 30 to sensitize the public on the plight of workers and pensioners as well as the demand for a new minimum wage. This step which could help mobilise mass support for the strike action is in line with what the SPN has consistently advocated as part of activities to win the struggle for a better pay.
We in the SPN consider the N30,000 as even too meagre to meet the needs of Nigerian workers. We consider it as too much of a concession to greedy employers for the labour leadership to have climbed down from its original demand of N65,000 to as low as N30,000, especially as the labour centres had variously explained that their original demand of N65,000 was based on outcome of research into the economic situation and what range of wages are needed to ensure a worker survives in a month.
In a country where virtually all social infrastructures and services have collapsed such that an average working class family spends its income to provide basic social services, the N30,000 is a far cry from labour's original demand of N65,000 and what a worker need to survive adequately. Even the N30,000 is less than the value of minimum wage paid by employers in 1981, which in the current terms is worth more than N50,000. When one considers the fact that social services like education, healthcare and water supply have been commercialized and priced out of the reach of an average working class family, it will be glaringly obvious that the N30,000 now being demanded by the labour leadership is too meagre.
It is however insulting that the employers, represented by the federal government, state governments and the private sector bosses, are insisting on paying less than even the meagre N30,000 which the labour centres are now demanding after climbing down from their initial demand of N65,000. The argument of lack of funds to pay is ridiculous given that the employers at all levels pay their executives fat salaries that make workers' salaries insignificant. Despite the hoax of lack of funds, the state governors have not stopped awarding hundreds of millions of naira as security votes aside maintaining countless number of political jobbers as appointees, who are paid multiples of what workers earn as salaries. For instance, a senator's unaccounted running cost of N13,500,000 will pay the monthly salaries of 270 workers on N50,000 minimum wage. If we add wasteful emoluments of other political officers at executive and legislative arms across the country and pension to former governors and presidents, it will be glaring that the excuse of lack of fund is a ruse. In the private sector too, many employers who employ thousands of workers on precarious conditions, give themselves several millions as emoluments. We are aware of billions of naira being declared as profits by companies.
Therefore, we call on leadership of labour movement not to succumb to the blackmail of state governors or private sector employers. Nothing good is given freely to workers in a capitalist system without a fight. We call on labour leadership not to limit this strike action to sit-at-home strike, but to mobilise ranks of workers on mass actions along with pro-labour civil societies and other oppressed people. The labour leadership should use the October 30 nationwide protest as a commencement of mass mobilization of workers and the oppressed people now through mass education, congresses, rallies, etc. as a means of preparing for the strike and winning the demand. Instead of an indefinite strike, we strongly recommend a 48-hour or 72-hour general strike as a starting point, the next step, of a mass campaign that will not stop until a new minimum wage is granted and implemented across board.
We also use this medium to condemn the latest attempt of the government to criminalize workers' strike through the adoption of 'No-Work, No-Pay' rule. This policy if allowed will deny workers the power to defend their rights to better living and improved working conditions. On the other hand, it will embolden the government at all levels and private sector to trample on workers' rights and living conditions. It is part of the attempt of the capitalist government to castrate all opposition to its anti-worker policies. We call on labour leadership to reject this obnoxious attempt to undermine the ability of workers to defend their rights. This is why the labour must specially mobilise for both October 30 nationwide protest and November 6, 2018 strike action.
For us in the SPN, we believe workers have rights to better living conditions and better remuneration. If elected into government, SPN will ensure payment of living wage that will ensure that workers' salaries meet all economic parameters. Not only this, SPN government will place political office holders on salaries of civil servant. This, aside saving several billions of naira, will also make politicians in power to be sensitive to the needs of the working people. SPN will also mobilise resources to massively invest in social services and infrastructures, which will ensure provision of free and quality education and healthcare at all levels, affordable housing etc. All of these alongside with a collective ownership and management of Nigeria's economy under a socialist plan will ensure that workers' salaries are able to meet their needs.