EDITORIAL: Minimum wage victory; struggle continues!
FG & states fear workers power!
After several tricks and attempts to avoid paying the new minimum wage, the federal and state governments seem ready to pay as due, on August 2. This is because they fear workers power and want to avoid a general strike. It is however not over yet. We have to draw lessons from the developments so far for the struggles ahead.
Accepting a meagre N18,000 as minimum wage was a compromise by the unions from the earlier demand for N52,500, after negotiations which included private employers, federal & state governments. President Jonathan signed the National Minimum Wage into law only in March to win workers goodwill for his elections. After May 29 the federal & state governments felt they now held power and don’t need to pay workers. The presidency said it would pay only Grade Levels 1-6, while governors that had earlier promised N25,000 as against N52,500 during the negotiations now said they couldn’t pay just N18,000!
The federal government seemed ready to pay those levels because most of the workers on those levels had been “downsized” through public sector reforms and “monetization”, it was only trying to play smart! Meanwhile, even government commissions responsible for revenue and wages clearly said the governors’ claim of inability to pay was a lie. We all know that the same governors and their band of “public officers” collect millions of naira as “salaries” not to mention the billions they steal from treasuries.
It was the fear of workers power which general strikes demonstrate sharply that forced the federal and state governments to hurriedly call for negotiations leading to the suspension of the warning strike that should have held on July20-22, at the last minute.
Working people across the country were disappointed. They felt the strike should have gone on even if it was just for one day while the National Executive Councils of NLC and TUC are given reports on the agreement reached with government for decision on the next line of action (workers in some states like Oyo started strike a day earlier). This would have made the elite governors and even private sector employers that had started threatening workers to feel the massive power of workers power!
The governments took labour for granted after this and reneged on the agreements reached. The recent agreement reached was because the trade unions threatened once again to go on strike. It is only workers power, or the fear of it that makes capitalist employers and governments to give us our rights.
It is a good thing that a sincere agreement seems to have been gotten from the federal government. It is however clear from experiences of earlier wage increments and the recent events that in different states, workers will still have to wage serious battles to have the minimum wage paid and across the board. We have to be prepared and ready for these.
SWL will stand by the working class across the country in these already unfolding struggles.
OYO WORKERS ON STRIKE
Oyo state workers started an indefinite strike on August 4, over implementation of the new minimum wage. NLC/TUC leadership had negotiated N13,400 with the state government which unilaterally now paid N10,200.
Rank and file workers in the state have been gallant fighters. The struggle in Oyo state will be one of the major test cases for the Minimum Wage Act’s implementation in the country. All working people, and youths in the state should give full support to this battle.
It also show that the governors would negotiate for less than N18,000 in most states. N18,000 should be what the least paying state pays and not the peak of minimum wages. Workers must not be deceived by lies of inability to pay. Governors that cannot pay, including Senator Ajimobi, should resign now!
Nigeria: State of the Nation (Column)
NO TO PRIVATIZATION COUNCIL! by Biodun Olamosu
The Federal Government has put in place a new Privatization Council that is composed of the public and private sector employers and including organised Labour.
Capitalists argue that what failed is not the policy of neo-liberalism as a whole but lack of commitment in implementing the policy. It was the same thing they said about Structural Adjustment Programmes across the world. This is just escapism to be persuaded since the ruling class can no longer hide the failure of the policy as many of the privatized companies are no more in operation.
In reality, the ruling class that disown the role of the State in business activities like banks, insurance, shipping, ports, airways, industries, agriculture, hotels etc because of the failure recorded in these areas are nevertheless responsible for such failures because such enterprises are ever under their control and ran by the philosophy of capitalist system. Events of the last decade have shown the failure of neo-liberalism across the world. As a result of this, Nigeria capitalists have no where to hide their failure.
The role of the labour movement in the current dispensation is how to mobilise the working people against such self centred policy as privatization. Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria should therefore wake up from their slumber to realise that the successive struggles of the workers against hike in the price of petroleum in the past years was actually a fight against the effect of the privatization policy; so it will not make sense for labour to come and be a party to such anti-labour policy that has failed Nigerian people; when many Nigerians had been demanding from the these labour centres to tender apology for their roles in the past in being part of the original Privatisation Committee.
Shell’s damage of Ogoniland; $1bn & 30years needed! by Baba Aye
United Nations Environmental Programme recently reported that $1bn & 30years would be required to roll back the effects of environmental degradation, occasioned by oil spillages from Shell’s operations in Ogoniland. This is despite the fact that the Ogonis had successfully shut down Shell facilities in the area since 1993. If not so, we can imagine how worse the situation would have been!
Dr. Digbo of MOSOP however points out that the UNEP report was an underestimation. Buttressing this position, Nnimo Bassey of Environmental Rights Action noted that to fix the Niger dela as a whole, not less than $100bn would be required.
All these go to show how natural resources which should better the lot of the masses are used to curse them by the elite who exploit these resources in their lands and go ahead to still oppress & marginalise them.
SWB calls for the action to be taken to “keep the oil in the soil”, until guarantees for the lives and health of citizens are first put in place.
Single tenure or pro-people’s policies? By Tunde Liberty
President Goodluck Jonathan is fast showing himself for what he his to an average Nigerian who had illusions in his “goodluckness” and good intentions. These illusions were partly fueled by his signing the minimum wage bill into law (the bill which its implementation was delayed and is still engulfed by series of administrative politics) and the appointment of Prof. Attahiru Jega as the INEC head and made many voted for him during the presidential election in April 2011. The broad expectation of the people is that President Jonathan administration with its newly expanded and constituted cabinet ought to build on the gains of the last election by prioritizing the immediate needs of the people.
The growing level of poverty, rising unemployment that has almost turned our youths to terrorists, 419ers, yahoo-yahoo, prostitutes, drug addicts and also qualified our nation as an environment that is not safe for genuine democratic practice and have also cast dark shadows on the future of the nation, due to insecurity and the pitiable state of our infrastructure that is far from attracting practical priority in the hand of the government, are enough causes for concern. One of the priorities of the administration ought to be provision of uninterrupted power supply, which will enhance economic growth and subsequently create employment opportunities instead of the introduction of a single term bill that discusses only the period of stay of political office holders and not programs that will touch the lives of citizens positively.
It’s only a government without direction or creative idea to move the nation forward and that does not have the people’s interest at heart that will initiate such a bill at its inception. The decision on how far a government stays in office is essentially the decision of the citizen; depending on how its programs and policies touch the life of the people.
While some writers see the timing of the single tenure proposal as misplaced priority, Nigerians are becoming apprehensive of Jonathan’s ability to turn around the dismal record of successive leaders the nation has had since independence. The issue indeed is deeper than Jonathan or his one tenure of 6years proposal. Fundamental restructuring through revolution is the solution to the country’s continuous crises.
Workers Struggles & Solidarity (Column)
INDEFINITE STRIKE SHUTS DOWN EDO STATE by Ike Agu
Edo state has been virtually shut down by an indefinite strike which commenced on August 3, after a 7-day ultimatum to the state government expired. NLC/TUC/JNC united front is demanding that the implementation of the new minimum wage in the state be extended to include teaching/no-teaching staff in schools, judiciary service workers and others. They are also demanding that the implementation takes effect from April and not June.
The workers equally raise a number of cogent issues beyond the minimum wage matter. Promotions have not been releases in the state since 2008. Casual workers have not been regularised. Local government administration has nor been allowed to flourish democratically while the 10% IGR remittances to LGAs have been held back by the state government which, the workers claim, also deducts funds from LGA accounts.
The striking workers are demanding an end to all these. They are as well demanding that the state’s transport company, Edo Line should be resuscitated and its sacked workers recalled. The strike which is presently restricted to workers in the Edo state public service is bound to escalate if the government remains recalcitrant. In a statement signed by Chairpersons of NLC, TUC & JNC, the unions said . “If government refuses to heed the call of organized labour after one week of this strike, workers in the private sector and Federal Government establishments in the state shall join the strike action”.
The Adams-led administration of the state has declared the strike as illegal and threatens to crush it. This shows us that it is not enough for some labour leaders to become governors, legislators, or even presidents. When they get into office on the basis of capitalism, they are likely to represent the system just like other capitalists. Workers self-emancipation must be based on revolution from below. Governor Adams must however know that the whole world is watching how he handles the strike in Edo.
LABOUR HONOURS CUBAN AMBASSADOR by Segun Ogun
Comrade Elio Savon Oliva, outgoing ambassador of the Republic of Cuba was hosted by the Labour Civil Society Coalition on August 4, at a reception in Bolton White Hotel, Abuja, attended by leaders of NLC, TUC, JAF and the ambassadors of Brasil, Saharawi Republic, Jamaica & Venezuela. Over 12 members of Socialist Workers League from three of its branches in the FCT were also present.
This would be the first time such a ceremony would be holding in the 30-year relations of the trade union movement in Nigeria with the people of Cuba. It was an opportunity to reiterate the cal of Abdulwahed Omar, NLC President on May day that pressure should be intensified on the US to scarp the 50-year embargo on Cuba. SWB also calls for the release of the Cuban 5 jailed in Miami for trying to stop terrorist activities against Cuba, while we wish Brother Elio further progress ahead.
SWAZI WORKERS NEED OUR SUPPORT! By Ike Agu
Gina Umduzi Comfort, Secretary-General of Swaziland Trade Unions Federation appealed for support in the struggle of Swazi working people against the autocratic rule of King Sophuza II & for the enthronement of democracy in the southern African country. Speaking at Labour House Abuja last week, he said: “it is the feeling of the Trade Union Movement, the Civil Society and the banned political parties in Swaziland that their story be told in Africa and that they wish their story to be understood by Africans”.
In this age and times, the rule of such feudalistic relics as monarchies is reactionary and holds back society. SWL appeals to all trade unions as well as the trade union centre to do all they can in pursuing the cause of democracy in Swaziland, within the finest traditions of solidarity.
MASS ANGER ROCKS NORTH LONDON by Shehu Al-Ishaq
The streets of Tottenham, north London was filled with rage, shattered glasses, bonfires, burning and looting, on August 6. This was after attempts at getting the London police to explain and apologise for the indefensible murder of Mark Duggan, a black man who hailed from the locality.
Mark had been shot in the face in circumstances that smacked of racism. The fight back in Tottenham was not only by blacks. Whites, Latinos, Jews, and Asians, all rose up in rage against the despicable act, leaving 26cops wounded and several police cars razed.
Tottenham has a history of anti-black racist attacks by the police and mass rage against these. In 1985, days after Cherry Groce was killed in Brixton, Cynthia Jarret, another black woman had died from brutality unleashed on her when her home was raided there.
The extent of rage now is greater, feeding into the anti-capitalist rage against cuts in social services. The violence also shows those who feel it is only in Nigeria that legitimate demonstrations get violent that rather every where: “those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable”.
NANS ELECTS NEW OFFICERS by Kunle “Wizman”
Yet another “Unity Convention” of the now moribund National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) held for four days producing one Mohammed Dauda a.k.a Capone from UNIJOS, as President, at the end of July. SWB gathered that he defeated his closest rival-Prince Miaphem (also of UNIJOS) with 44 votes. Monies provided by different state governors to contestants exchanged hand. Cultists also had a field day.
Many student activists are of the view that this new leadership does not represent the genuine yearnings of the Nigerian Students. This is disheartening as several problems including the commercialization of education & lack of qualitative learning equipments face Nigerian students
There is an urgent need for rank and file progressive students especially Socialist Youths to start mobilizing for change across campuses to effect change in the Students’ Movement. Thus, Left groups should intervene with radical programmes of action on the campuses. The task is hectic, yet, the move must start now as the problems of Nigerian Students are growing worse by the day.
SWB therefore urges progressive elements in the students’ movement to meet, unite and fight; from BELOW. We must be more organized than ever. The student movement has the historic role of consistent resistance to anti-people policies of neo-liberal government of this country and their neo-fascist agents. We cannot change our society if we do not start from our campuses. Education builds a nation.
Students must fight to unban proscribed unions (OAU, IFE; OSCOED, ILESA; UNILAG, LAGOS; etc). We must as well commence the fight against such diversionary and pro-rich capitalist policies like privatization, entrepreneurship, etc. the students’ movement must also be fight now to reinstate victimized students’ leaders like the OAU 5; ILESA 5; etc.
|Where We Stand!|
INDEPENDENT WORKING CLASS ACTION
In a capitalist society like Nigeria, workers create all the riches yet very few workers benefit from their toil. Only a tiny minority of capitalists control and enjoy this wealth while the working people suffer exploitation and poverty.
This is a consequence of capitalism, an economic system that puts profits before people’s needs. We want a completely new society in which the workers collectively seize control and democratically plan production and distribution for the benefit of all – not just for an elite few.
REVOLUTION NOT REFORM
Radical struggles of workers and youths could make capitalist states/governments pass some progressive reforms. The capitalist system however, can not be reformed; it cannot be sustained without the continued exploitation and oppression of workers. Such “progressive” reforms from the top are meant to dampen the eagerness of working people for revolutionary change. Some socialists also believe that socialism can be won through “free and fair elections”. History shows that such electoral road only leads, at best, to sowing the seeds of reformism. The only viable road to socialism is the revolutionary overthrow of the present system led by the mass of workers. The state machinery in the form of the government, parliament, the army, the police and judiciary are designed to defend the interests of the ruling capitalist class. Through their collective self-activity, workers can smash this oppressive state machinery of the elites, and replace it with true workers’ democracy. This will be based on workers councils with delegates accountable to workers themselves, not parliament
The key to a successful revolution lies in international solidarity with other workers around the world. The working class is globally exploited by international capital. To emphasize national unity instead of class unity is to fall into the manipulation of the oppressors in each country and undermine the power of workers united in struggle. The experience of Russia demonstrates that socialism cannot survive in one country. In Russia it led to state capitalism and Stalinism. In Eastern Europe and China similar systems were later established by Stalinist parties. We thus stand for international struggle and solidarity of working people
We oppose all tendencies, which turn workers against workers. We are against sexism and the oppression of women, “tribalism”, religious sectarianism, homophobia and all other forms of discrimination. These misdirect workers from the real roots of exploitation and imperialism and weaken our collective strength. We advocate ethnic equality and support the rights of minorities to organize and defend their rights. We support all genuine national liberation movements and strive to build solidarity of working people across all identity boundaries.
THE REVOLUTIONARY WORKERS PARTY
A revolutionary party is a spear in the hands of workers. It brings together the most class conscious workers to spread socialist ideas and collective action. Through patient arguments and practical organization in the daily class struggle, we can win workers to our politics and the fight for a socialist society. Activity to build such a party has to be based on the mass organisations of the working class. A vanguard organisation of dedicated workers is critical for winning the mass of working people to building such a party of a new type. SWYL is such an organisation!
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