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18 October 2018
The Socialist Party of Nigeria, SPN, condemns the continuous delay in arriving at a new minimum wage. We also hold that the refusal of the Buhari/APC-led government to enact a new minimum wage since 2016, when the current N18, 000 minimum wage has been due for an upward review, has further shown that the President Buhari/APC-led government has not fared better in terms of high level of insensitivity and irresponsibility to the plights of workers and poor masses when compared with the 16 years of misrule by various preceding regimes formed by the PDP.
Following the resumption of the meeting of the tripartite committee which was forced by the three-day strike embarked upon by the three labour centres (NLC, TUC and ULC), there have been conflicting reports of different figures for the new minimum wage.
The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige was once reported to have said that there was yet to be an agreement over a specific figure for a new minimum wage. This was countered by labour leaders who claimed that the figure of N30,000 had been agreed by the committee as the new minimum wage. In between this claim and counter-claim is also a report of a figure of N24,000 and N22,000 as the new minimum wage for civil servants at federal and state levels respectively.
Going by this background, it is obvious that neither the tripartite committee nor the Buhari/APC-led government has demonstrated any seriousness and sincerity on the demand of workers for a new minimum wage. This is despite the three day warning strike held by the labour centres and the fact that it is almost three years the current N18,000 has been over-due for an upwards review.
The SPN calls on the government to agree to the new figure of N30,000, which is even a far cry from the original demand of N65,000 put forward by the labour and very paltry given the currently high cost of living, without any retrenchment. At the same time, SPN call on labour leaders to realise that it may require mass struggles including strike and protests, which are well mobilised for, to force the government to agreeing to their demand. We also warn the labour leaders against the danger of any illusion that any figure of minimum wage announces by the FG will enjoy an automatic implementation. The current body language of the various state governors regardless of the political parties since the commencement of the agitation and negotiation for a new minimum is a strong signal that the implementation of a new minimum wage is not going to be automatic no matter how meagre the amount may be.
Again, the fact that labour centres organised a warning strike before the tripartite committee could be forced to reconvene in order to continue the negotiation on the new minimum wage is another indication that the labour leaders must be ready and prepared for a long-drawn and united struggle of Nigeria workers before the implementation of whatever amount is announced as a new minimum wage can be guaranteed. For such a struggle for the implementation of the new minimum wage to be able to win the support and sympathy of the Nigeria working people, it must be linked with a demand for no retrenchment of workers as a result of higher minimum wage as well payment and settlement of backlog of salary and pension arrears. For an improved minimum wage to have meaningful impact considering rising cost of living, the labour leaders must lead sustained mass struggle for adequate funding to education, healthcare, housing and basic infrastructure with the aim of guaranteeing quality and functional education and healthcare to all, affordable housing and the creation of jobs.
Good enough the impressive compliance among the workers recorded during the last three days warning strike despite poor mobilisation by the labour leaders is an indication that Nigeria workers are ready and prepared for serious battle for the implementation of a minimum wage of N65,000, let alone N30,000, once the labour leaders are willing and prepared to provide a determined leadership for the agitation.
It is in the light of this that SPN urges the labour leader to remain steadfast and resolute as their stand on N30,000 minimum Wwge is achievable and payable. The resources at the disposal of the Nigeria state is more than enough to implement a minimum wage above the N65,000 labour was demanding and still provide social infrastructure, functional schools, hospitals, roads for the society. Largely militating against this includes the problem of outrageous salaries and allowances often earned by the political office holders as well as corrupt contract system in addition to direct looting system through which the members of the capitalist class often award to themselves the public funds. 17,000 political office holders earn outrageous N1.2 trillion annually while workers are condemned to poverty wage.
To reverse this trend will also require the labour leaders to link the struggle for the implementation of the new minimum wage to a demand to place the political office holders on the salary and allowance of civil servant while all contract system must be replaced by well-equipped public work programme with well-trained personnel together with democratic control of all revenues and expenses including projects by elected representatives of workers and community people. This will greatly help to free up huge money for mass investment on social services and also allow the execution of any size of project at much lesser contract sum.
However, achieving the above measures will require having a pro-masses government with a socialist program in power. This is why we have consistently called on the labour movement to build a mass party on a socialist program or work with the SPN to build it as a mass party that could wrest power for the thieving ruling elites at all levels.