Minimum Wage: Victory for Workers, But Not yet Uhuru!
· For full implementation to meet rate of inflation
· Aregbesola Govt. should pay pensions and gratuities of retirees now
· SPN supports Demands of Osun Tertiary Institutions’ Lecturers
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) Osun State Chapter heartily expresses its solidarity with workers, especially workers in Osun State as they celebrate this year Workers’ Day. We again reiterate our support for the collective struggles of workers for better living conditions and a better society that guarantees a secured future for working people all over the world.
Minimum Wage Increase: Product of Struggle
As workers in Osun State celebrate Workers’ Day, we also welcome their latest victory on minimum wage. This victory, which has seen minimal rise in salaries for workers, should be welcome as a product of the protracted struggle of workers since 2011. The minimum wage struggle has shown what can be achieved when workers are determined to defend collectively their right to better living. The strikes, congresses and open campaigns by activists including members of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) are what forced the Aregbesola/ACN government to concede to workers’ demands. This shows the power of collective struggle. We in the SPN enjoin workers to consolidate on the gains of the struggle by rebuilding their unions on a democratic, mass-based, participatory basis. Workers must purge their unions of pro-state, corrupt leaders, who are prepared to defend the government and sell workers out for crumbs. We call on workers to also insist that regular congresses be called on issues affecting them, and they must demand regular reports on how the unions are run in form of leaflets, bulletin, etc and local congresses and meetings.
Issues Still Remain
It is worth stating that the increment being introduced is still far from a living wage, and real implementation of the minimum wage. For instance, the salaries of Osun workers, despite the increment, is still about half of their colleagues in the federal civil service are paid, and below that of some other states. Consequently, we enjoin workers and their unions to continue to demand for improvement based on the cost of living and inflation. Even as Aregbesola government is forced to concede rise in minimum wage, workers must demand that the implementation must not lead to retrenchment of workers, increase in tax (as workers are already overtaxed), or loss of other rights and welfare incentives. This is necessary as the government, when forced to pay the new wage will look for ample opportunities to attack workers and their living conditions. This is reflected in the fact that the government deliberately waited until this year to effect wage increment so as to exclude thousands of workers who retired as at December 2012.
Workers should also realize that their wage increment would lose value if education is further commercialized, and other social services privatized. On this basis, we enjoin workers to also join other oppressed people to demand free and quality education at all levels; free healthcare at the point of use; and expansion of social infrastructures that will ensure provision of decent and secured employment for tens of thousands of youths, as against the exploitative, slave labour of OYES.
Aregbesola Govt. Should Pay Pensioners
We in the SPN call on Aregbesola government to pay the pension areas and gratuity of retired workers in the state. The workers have dedicated their adult lives for the service of the society; they have an inalienable right to a living pension that is tied to rate of inflation and cost of living. It is rather unfortunate that the Aregbesola government has not paid retirees, especially those who retired in the later part of 2012. This is condemning them to poverty, which is inhuman.
We enjoin workers and the leadership of the trade unions to take the issue of the retirees up as part of labour’s demand. If government is allowed to do whatever it likes over pensioners’ pensions, it will set a bad precedent that will affect those in service now. Already, there are reports that government has not been paying its own counterpart fund of the contributory pension to the PFA, while workers’ 7.5% contributions are being deducted. This means that many workers will be left in the cold by the time they retire, as they will not get their entitlement as early as they expect. The contributory pension itself is exploitation as government is expected to ensure living pension for workers and not deduct from workers’ wages. Therefore, we call on workers to use this occasion to demand immediately payment of pensions and gratuities of retirees, without further delay. Failure of government to do this should lead to mass protests and rallies along with retirees, and forty-eight hour warning strike.
We Support the demands of Osun Tertiary Institutions’ Lecturers
We also use this occasion to reiterate our support for the lecturers in the four state-owned tertiary institutions who are demanding among other things: reversal of the exorbitant tax regime in the state, implementation of the sixty five year retirement age policy, improved staffing of the institutions (as most departments already lack teaching staff) and full implementation of the pending salary structures. Despite the fact that these are legitimate demands, which can easily be acceded to by the government, the Aregbesola government has refused to yield. This has led to continued closure of schools to the detriment of students and workers. This has again rubbished the much-touted education reform of the government, which in the real sense has been mere grandstanding.
The government has been using all strong-arm tactics to break the lecturers’ strike. If it is successful in doing this, it will embolden the government to further attack workers. Therefore, we call on workers in Osun State, through their various unions to give solidarity to the lecturers. We call on labour leaders to organize mass actions including solidarity strike, rallies, press statements, etc. in support of the lecturers. We also enjoin the lecturers and their unions to organize joint mass actions with other workers and students, as a way of building more public support, and thus prevent the government from using false propaganda and exploiting the likely frustration of parents and students to gain cheap public support. With the solidarity actions of other workers and public support, the striking lecturers can force this anti-worker government to meet their demands.
The Need for Working Class Government
The character of the Aregbesola/ACN government in Osun State during the minimum wage struggle again reflects the anti-poor, anti-worker character of this government despite its claim to progressivism. This is clearly reflected in the failed attempt of the government to use the National Industrial Court to stop workers from gaining a little improvement in their poor wages, and its divide-and-rule tactics. Just like the federal government, other state governments, and capitalist political parties, the Aregbesola/ACN government is committed to neo-liberal policies that ensure that more money go the coffer of the already rich few, while the majority of the working and poor people are made to live on the fringes of poverty and want. This is clearly reflected in the elitist projects undertaken by the government, albeit at exorbitant costs and borrowed funds, while the basic needs of the people: free and quality education and healthcare, good wages for workers, secure and decent employment for all able-bodied citizens, etc, are left unattended to.
This underscores the need for workers to build their own political platform to contend for power with the current set of anti-poor, pro-rich parties at all levels. Working and poor people need a party that will put public resources to public needs: free and quality education and healthcare, living wages for workers, massive development of social and public infrastructures (mass public housing scheme, potable water supply, transport development, etc), provision of secure and decent employment for all citizens, etc. These programmes can be easily implemented if society’s resources and wealth are put under democratic public ownership of working people. It will also require that politicians collect average wages of civil servants. With this, public resources going to the rich few and big businesses will be liberated for pro-poor, pro-workers’ programmes. This is what the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) stands for. Consequently, we call on workers and the poor people to join us in building a strong working class political alternative that can defeat parties of looters who are holding millions of Nigerians in poverty.
Once again, Happy Workers’ Day 2013