No to Abrogation of National Minimum Wage Law
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) condemns the move by the state governors and the National Assembly to remove the minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list. This will mean the abrogation of the national minimum wage law and the leverage for the state governors to pay their respective workers poverty wages. It is not accidental that all the political parties in government are united in this attack on the wellbeing of workers as they all subscribe to the same anti-poor capitalist policies.
We consider it hypocritical and cruel for the governors to readily invoke "true federalism" whenever the issue and welfare of workers are at stake. But there is no talk of "true federalism" when the governors and other political office holders in the states received the same jumbo salaries and allowances as prescribed by a federal government agency, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
The Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) for instance said, "As long as Nigeria is called a federation, states should be allowed to fix the wages of their workers bearing in mind their objective realities. …Ekiti, for instance, is second from the rear in revenue allocation of an average of N2bn monthly and yet it is put under the same yoke of minimum wage with Akwa Ibom State that earns an average of N10bn allocation monthly. This is not only unjust, but oppressive to Ekiti." (Punch August 4, 2012).
Governor Kayode Fayemi wants to pay workers in Ekiti a lower wage than what the workers in Akwa Ibom earn, contrary to the national minimum wage act, but does not mind receiving the same jumbo salaries and allowances as his counterpart in Akwa Ibom as prescribed by RMAFC despite the difference in the revenue profile of the two states.
Presently in Ondo state, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is engaging in a bitter battle with the Labour Party for the political control of the state ahead of October 2012 governorship election. But on minimum wage issue, like other anti-poor policies, both parties are in firm agreement. This explains why Governor Segun Mimiko of Labour Party shares the position of Kayode Fayemi of ACN on the issue. Mimko through the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, was reported to have said, "The indices of revenue accruable to each state should be adopted in fixing workers' salaries and allowances. It should not be the responsibility of the FG." (Punch August 4, 2012).
The leadership of both Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) have threatened to resist this attempt by the state governors to deny workers the right to national minimum wage. This is welcome but not enough. The reaction of Labour to the issue of minimum wage since it became a law has always been mere hot air or lamentation. Well over a year ago the national minimum wage has become operational, but virtually all the state governments have not fully implemented the new wage.
The national leadership of Labour has left workers in each state to fight it out on their own with their respective state governors. In most cases, the state leaderships of Labour compromised with the governors and got rotten deals for workers. Yet, Labour has not called and mobilized for national action to compel the state governors to obey the law and thereby defend the interest of workers. The plan of the labour leadership, as credited to the TUC president Peter Esele, is to take the governors to court. Apparently after this they would go back to bed and await the technicality of the law to do battle. This plan of Labour is just to while away time and create impression that something is being done. There is no guarantee that the governors who do not obey a law which is unambiguous would readily respect a court order which could even be challenged up to the Supreme Court and thereby making the litigation to last many years. What is required to force the hand of the governments is struggle. The new minimum wage was won by struggle and it has to been enforced by struggle. The labour leaders do not lack the most appropriate of arguments as well as undisputable facts to puncture the fallacious claims of the state government on federalism and revenues. The problem is the lack of resolve to fight the governments, with whom they enjoin strategic partnership, with the might of workers.
We of the SPN call on the Labour leadership to take struggle of the minimum wage much more serious. For instance at the last National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the NLC held on August 8, 2012 in Benin there was no plan of action to fight for the full implementation of the new wage. It was all lamentation about the plan of the government to remove the minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list. We agree that this has to be fought but the implementation of the minimum wage which is already a law requires immediate action from the Labour. We call on the Labour leadership to immediate come up with a plan of actions that should include 48-hour warning general strike and mass mobilization of workers and other sections of the working people for national action. We call on Labour activists and ordinary workers to begin to agitate right from workplaces for serious action by Labour leadership on the minimum wage along the lines we have proposed.
We strongly hold that the state governments have the means to pay the new wage, the problem is the anti-working people character of the all the big parties who are only in government for self-serving interest. The payment of the minimum wage means that there will be reduction in the resources set aside for looting which they are not ready to sacrifice. Besides, we hold that drastic reduction in jumbo salaries and allowances of top government functionaries as well as the elimination of wastages like outrageous foreign trips and bloated number of aids to top political office holders would free up more resources to pay minimum wage and finance social program. The capitalist parties in government cannot carry out these measures. This is one of the reasons the working people have to chase these anti-poor parties out of power. If the SPN is in power all political office holders will be placed on the salary structure of civil servants while their democratically audited incidental expenses are borne by the government. We will also enshrine the democratic control by the working people of all the facets of economy and governance. This for instance means that public works on road construction will be subjected to the democratic control of the workers and communities. We call on workers, youths and the poor to join the SPN today and contribute to the building of a party that is for millions and not a few multi-millionaires looters!
Protem National Chairman