The demand for a minimum wage is key to the improvement of the living conditions of millions of Nigerian workers. This article, from the Nigerian Marxist journal, Workers' Alternative, explains the issues involved.
Support the wage demands of the Lagos state workers
For a nation wide action in defence of a living wage
From where we stand, we continue to demand a N20,000 minimum wage for Nigerian workers. No amount of cheap sophistry by the ruling class can negate this demand because it is anchored on sober and reasoned assessment.
The acceptance of N7,500 and N6,500 for federal and State civil service workers respectively by the NLC leadership was a sellout of Nigerian workers. In the same vein, the "suspension" of the Lagos State civil service workers' strike action (hitting the nationwide strike movement at a strategic spot) was a strikebreaking act on the part of the NLC leadership. The regime of Obasanjo is a wolf that does not even bother to put on sheep's clothing but rather arrogantly flaunts its wolfish nature. (Is not its wolfishness apparent to you, Adams) The goals of this government don't include workers. Furniture/sitting allowances, contract scams, insurance policies, presidential jets, fleet of cars - including bulletproof ones, as well as trafficking in "strange and funny objects", are more important to them than living wages for Nigerian workers. These parasites have grown rich at the expense of workers. They've grown fat while workers in the factories have starved. Hand-in-hand with the wealth of this class have grown, in inverse proportion, the poverty of the working class who continues to sink deeper and deeper into the swamps of pauperism. Not a few have actually drowned!
Time and time again we are told, when we ask for a living wage, to "be patient", by people who don't know what it means to live on a starvation wage. But, how can we be patient any longer?
How can we be patient any longer when what is on display before us is the complete bankruptcy of the ruling class, who by their policy have told us "you can only get what you get by force"? How can we be patient when the recent devaluation of the Naira will further impoverish an already impoverished class - the working class?
Nor is this a question of bad governance. By its actions and inaction, the Nigerian ruling class proves itself incapable of solving the problems of the country under the regime of capital. In the face of economic crisis and a sharp rise in living standard, an upward review of wages has become absolutely essential. Bringing in a decent wage is a vital necessity for working class families.
Yet in the face of these glaring needs the capitalists continues to engage in various white elephant projects aimed at lining their pockets the cost of which could effectively pay workers' wages.
We've said it before and we'll say it again; as long as capitalism exists there is no escape from the prison house of starvation wages, dead-end jobs, misery, horror, etc. We cannot and must not live this way any more. While not abandoning the struggle for better wages, jobs and a decent standard of living, we must realize that capitalism is at a dead-end and can offer us nothing good. Our capacity to transform our working and living conditions depends on our capacity to struggle. Our rights will not be given us unless we are willing to fight for it.
As an aside, what does unionism mean? The right to collect workers' dues while beheading the movement? It means more than this. It expresses the desire by workers for an organized struggle against an economic system that oppresses and exploits them. Our leaders must, therefore, move from rhetoric to action. At all levels, a campaign must be instituted for a living wage and as a final solution, a Labour Party with a program of socialism. This is a struggle for all workers. Don't sit on the fence.