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14 September 2018
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) welcomes the joint decision of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress, TUC, and United Labour Congress, ULC, to give a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government (FG) for the completion of all negotiations on a new national minimum wage. The 14-day ultimatum was announced during a joint press conference organised by the three labour centres in Lagos, on the Wednesday, 12 September, 2018. It is our belief in SPN that the agreement among the three labour centres to organise the press conference, which was the first of its kind since the commencement of the negotiation on the new minimum wage, is a right step in a right direction.
Since January 2016, when the current N18, 000 minimum wage was due for an upward review, the FG, the state governments and the organised private sector have taken the advantage of the inability of the three labour centres to agree, owing to the unprincipled disagreement among the leadership, on a common and harmonised figure for a new minimum wage and a united front and strategy to force the approval, to continue to delay and postpone the approval of a new minimum wage for Nigeria workers.
Except if the labour centres form a common front, the FG will continue to take the advantage of the disharmony among them to continue to postpone the approval of a new minimum wage. This is why the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige, who earlier promised in February this year during a 40th anniversary of the NLC that new minimum wage would commence implementation by September, was emboldened to suddenly announce few days ago when Nigerian workers are waiting for the commencement of the new minimum wage that the activities of the tripartite committee negotiating the new minimum wage had been adjourned indefinitely.
SPN frowns upon this pronouncement by labour minister which is tantamount to the act of changing the goal post in the middle of the game. At the same time, we commend the initiative of the three labour centres to organize a joint press conference not to only condemn the indefinite adjournment of the committee but also give the FG a 14 days' ultimatum for the committee to complete all the negotiation necessary for the announcement of the new minimum wage.
However, the SPN strongly feels that this ultimatum must not be limited to just a media pronouncement, the labour leaders must commence immediate mobilisation and sensitisation of the workers and other poor Nigerians across the country in preparation for a 24 hours warning general strike and mass protest as a first step to commence the struggle for the approval should the FG fail to respect the 14 days ultimatum.
Even if the new minimum wage is announced within these 14 days, it is our belief in SPN that a national day of action to demand immediate payment of salary and pension arrears across the states, as well as an end to all other anti-people policies of Buhari/APC regime, is necessary. This is to win the support and sympathy of the Nigeria working people to be able to prevail on the government at all level to respect the implementation of the new minimum wage should it eventually announced.
To begin the process, SPN calls on the leaders of the three labour centers to initiate an immediate meeting with their long term and dependable allies like Joint Action Front (JAF) and the civil society organisations, including left political parties like SPN, to commence discussion and debate on how to best conduct a mass-based nationwide action for a new minimum wage and other issues that threatens the socio-economic interests of the Nigeria working but suffering masses.
This is very important as a mass action that will force both the approval and the implementation of a new minimum wage is not such that can be conducted without adequate mobilisation of the entirety of the working class and the vast army of the oppressed masses.
Beyond discussions with the allies in civil society, the national labour leaders of the three trade unions must also mandate all their state councils and industrial unions to commence agitation and mobilization at workplaces and 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.
These kinds of activities will no doubt offer an opportunity to dispel all forms of government false propaganda that the current state of revenue at the disposal of government at all levels cannot support an increment in the national minimum wage. SPN holds that this is not true! 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 collectively-owned and placed under democratic management of the elected representatives of workers and the other categories of the working people.
Ultimately, only a genuine working and poor people's government formed on the basis of a socialist programme will ever be able to practice this kind of socio-economic arrangement where the collective resources at the disposal of the state will be collectively owned and subjected to democratic management and control of the people. Therefore, to midwife the process that will lead to the formation of this kind of government requires an independent political platform of the working people themselves. This is why we of SPN continue to call on leaders of labour movement to support the SPN intervention in the 2019 general elections as part of the process towards the building of a mass workers' political party, side by side with the struggle for reforms and improvements of living condition of the working people with a view to wrest political power from the capitalist vampires.