Socialist Workers League joins the Nigeria Labour Congress in condemning the National Assembly’s proposed constitutional amendment that would remove Wages from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list. This is a clear attempt to inflict a great blow on the working class. If it is allowed to sail through such draconian amendment would empower state governments that have never hidden their intent to give workers absolutely nothing as wages if only they could, to worsen the paucity of the starvation wages they presently pay.
It is bad enough that a minimum wage of N18,000 was accepted in 2011 as against the N52,500 demand of the trade unions. It is worse that a few states have refused to even pay this pittance of a take home pay that cannot take many a worker home. The worst situation would be that of liberalising the minimum wage regime, supposedly in the name of “decentralisation” and “true federalism”. This is a huge step backwards as the quest for Living Wage is supplanting even mere “minimum” wages. This is to say that minimum wages like the N18,000 pittance are being rejected, and rightly so, by trade unions and the working class as a whole, across the world, including in African countries.
Minimum wages represent a significant reform to curtail the worst of exploitation of the workers’ enslavement by the capitalists, as a reform won through struggle.
We hasten to state that the wage system is itself the most manifest form of the enslavement of the working class by the bosses. “Labour creates wealth” as the NLC’s motto boldly reminds us. But the bosses appropriate the social wealth and present us with meagre amounts as wages. Our ultimate aim thus must be for us, as the primary class of toilers, to change the system by and for us to be emancipated. This is the essence of the lines in Solidarity Forever that “we can bring to birth a new world on the ashes of the old, for the union makes us strong”. This new society, which the workers’ will build on the basis of solidarity and cooperation, is socialism.
In the cause of our struggle for self-emancipation, we have to fight for, win and defend reforms, without having any illusion that socialism can be won through piecemeal reforms. One of such reforms is of course the enactment of the living wage. The bosses will always do all they can to roll back such reforms as that of the National Minimum Wage legislation except we fight to defend such gains. We thus welcome NLC’s position that “We Shall Resist This”. SWL and its members and supporters across the country will join the trade unions, which we are part and parcel of, in this monumental battle.
In furtherance of this struggle, we call on the NLC and TUC to organise a 2-day General Strike immediately, as a warning signal to the bosses and their governments at all levels, that our resistance will be unwavering, if they do not retract their steps on this matter, forthwith. An indefinite strike action would of course be necessary, if the amendment process continues, to ensure that it is scuttled. And we must start now to struggle for a National Minimum Wage that is a living wage. Once again, we should demand a National Minimum Wage of N52,500.00 by 2015, with no going back on this.
It is also pertinent at this juncture which the current situation underlines to stress the pressing need for the working class to build a Labour Party that represents it, within and outside the National and State Houses of Assembly. The bosses might have the wealth from our sweat which they sit on, but “in our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold, greater than the might of armies magnified a thousand fold”. But for that power to be real we the working people need to build OUR PARTY as the collective bargaining nature of trade unions limits the politics necessary for our struggle to social emancipation.
This is why the Socialist Workers League in conjunction with the FCT Abuja Chapter of the Labour Party is organising a symposium with the theme: Labour Party and the Working Class: Which Way Forward? by 11.00am on Thursday October 30, at the Labour House Auditorium. We enjoin you to join us