Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Minimum Wage: Osun State Workers Must Reject Latest Onslaught

By Alfred Adegoke (Protem Chairperson, SPN Osun State)

The Osun State Chapter of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) condemns the latest assault by the Rauf Aregbesola/ACN government of Osun state on the democratic right of workers to seeking improvements in their living and working conditions, and calls for full implementation of national minimum wage that has become law since 2011.  

The state government has dragged Osun State workers to National Industrial Court (NIC) over the minimum wage. It has already secured an injunction against strike being planned by workers. It is also seeking , among other things, that court declares  payment of N18, 000 minimum wage to all categories of workers, especially those earning more than N18, 000, illegal.

This is a government that employed 20, 000 youths under the Osun State Youth Employment Scheme (OYES) with poor wages (less than N10, 000 monthly); with no right to unionize or any hazard benefit; even when the labour law compels every employer of over 50 workers to pay minimum wage, and regularize such employment. 

Workers had hinged suspension of a previous two-month strike in September last year on government's promise to implement the new wage for all workers when state revenue improved. The federal allocations had more than doubled the state revenue since then while the governor claimed early this year that the government had saved over N35 billion. Meanwhile, workers' wages are being eaten up by inflation and rising cost of living, especially as basic costs of foodstuffs have risen sharply while basic social services like education, healthcare, water, electricity, etc have been commercialized and privatized, as the case may apply.

It is unfortunate that despite the huge resources - monetary, human, natural and mineral - in the state, Osun State government cannot improve the well being of the people. Public education at all levels is still underfunded and commercialized as most of the public primary and secondary schools are still in the parlous state the ousted Oyinlola/PDP government left them. The state tertiary institutions are priced out of the reach of children of the poor working people. The healthcare is in the same horrible state. All this is happening despite the propaganda of the state government. 

Ultimately, workers need their own party that will advance their interests. Workers need a party with a clear-cut socialist programme that will carry out mass state investment in social and public services, including  adequate maximum wage to create decent jobs for all workable population and make better living for the working and poor people. This is as against the current neo-liberal policies practiced by all major ruling political parties. Such a party will have to be committed to nationalization of the mainstay of the economy under the democratic control and management of the working people. Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) stands for these programmes, and we enjoin all workers and the poor to join the party to build a strong force to establish a genuine working people’s government.

Workers must reject this latest assault on their democratic and economic rights. The labour unions must call immediate congresses of workers, starting from the local level, and then to the state level. Mass campaign materials like leaflets, posters, handbills, etc must be produced; while rallies, protest marches must be organized along with these. Moreover, workers must reject an attempt to gag them; thus, a one-day warning strike must be called to send appropriate signal to the state government. Such strike must be well publicized and mobilized for as much as the state labour leadership has publicized the court injunction among the rank and file workers. This is becoming very important in order not to create a negative precedent wherein government or employers of labour could quickly rush to NIC to get an injunction any time there is an impeding plan by workers to go on strike in pursuance of any of their demands.  Essentially, workers, in order to mobilize other oppressed strata must link their agitation with other social demands. For instance, they must demand that the casual workers under OYES must be employed as full time workers with all rights.