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15 November 2017
The attention of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) has been drawn to a media report that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has dragged the Federal Government of Nigeria to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for non-payment of salaries and proscription of trade unions in Kogi State. Having gone through the report, it is obvious that the two issues of non-payment of salaries and proscription of trade unions in Kogi state mentioned by the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, in the said report were only raised as a side talk while he was speaking to the journalist during the 30th World Congress of the Public Service International (PSI), recently held in Geneva.
Even if the issues around non-payment of salaries in many of the states in Nigeria and proscription of unions in Kogi state had been discussed at the floor of the ILO meeting, SPN believes that it is not enough basis for the Wabba-led NLC to continue delaying the urgent need to initiate a series of mass activities including a national day of action to demand immediate payment of salary arrears across the country; an higher new minimum wage and end to all the anti-poor policies of the Buhari-led administration.
Currently, over two million workers across 27 states in the country are being owed salaries for more than three months despite a series of bailouts, Paris Club refunds and relative improvement in monthly allocation. Meanwhile the N18, 000 minimum wage signed into law on the 25th of March, 2011 by the former President Goodluck Jonathan-led government has been statutorily due for an upward review since early 2016. This is aside the fact that the so called minimum wage itself has been eroded by high inflation and devaluation of naira.
Given this kind of unwarranted conditions under which the Nigeria workers are forced to groan, the SPN considers the report that Wabba-led NLC has dragged FGN to ILO as a misplacement of priority. This is so because various struggles that have broken out over non-payment of salary arrears in the recent past in states like Oyo, Osun, Nassarawa, Kogi, Benue, Enugu etc., have shown that it will require a national action led by the national leadership of the trade union centres (NLC, TUC and ULC) in the country before the various state governments owing workers' salaries arrears can be successfully compelled to upset the salary arrears in their respective states.
Without the labour leaders declaring a 24 hour general strike and mass protest as the first step to force government to settle unpaid salaries and pensions and begin negotiation for a higher minimum wage without retrenchment no amount of discussion at the ILO, no matter the level of media publicity given to such, will be capable of compelling the Nigerian government at all levels to meet the various demands of the Nigerian workers.
However, SPN also advises that national day of action we are calling must not be limited to just a media declaration. There must also be a simultaneous effort to commence a prior mobilisation of rank and file workers across the country. This will mean that the national labour leaders must give early directives to all state councils and industrial unions of the respective labour centres to start agitation and mobilization at workplaces and in communities including activities like symposia, mass meetings and rallies together with production and distribution of leaflets and posters articulating the demands, sensitising workers and the public and involving broad layers in debate and activities to enable the mass actions/strikes to be active and more engaging. Labour must also engage pro-labour activists and pro-labour organisations in a pre-mass actions meetings and mobilisations.
Such activities would help to build a groundswell of support for the national action to win a new improved minimum wage and force its implementation with no retrenchment. This is because the activities will offer opportunities to argue and articulate how prudent and democratic management of resources of the country, especially with relative rebound of oil prices can win an improved national minimum wage without loss of jobs. SPN believes that a minimum wage that will bring a significant improvement in the living condition of the working people is possible! Only if the collective resources of the country are collective own and placed under democratic management of the elected representative of workers and the other categories of the working people.
We call on ordinary workers, trade union activists and pro-labour activists to initiate independent activities aimed at piling pressure on the national labour leadership to declare and organise serious actions on minimum wage and unpaid salaries.