Nigeria: May Day – workers’ struggle of the past year and the tasks ahead

Since last May Day, fierce battle between public sector workers and the capitalist ruling class of different shades and disguises have erupted.

These battles range from continuous struggle for a minimum wage to the unprecedented general strike/mass movements against hike of petrol pump price in January.

The working people and youths, through heroic actions have shown that they are prepared to defend their right to decent living. More than this, they have expressed their readiness to struggle for fundamental change, and chase away the current set of bankrupt capitalist class, if given clear-headed and revolutionary leadership.

However while many of these struggles could have led to real change, the ideological weakness of the trade union leadership and movement only led to series of missed opportunities to change society. This year’s May Day should be used by the labour movement and worker activists to review the struggle of the past year and draw out a programme of action to continue to defend the living and working conditions of workers.

Demonstrators in Abuja, 10 January, 2012


While the new minimum wage has not been fully implemented by both government and private sector employers, government has announced the plan to make Nigerians pay higher tariff for electricity they have never enjoyed. It is also a fact that the government has not abandoned the plan to further increase the fuel price above N97. This accounts for artificial scarcity which has become worse since the fuel price was forced back to N97 by the historic January struggle.

Without a programme of action for a fight back against these neo-liberal policies, Nigerian workers and the oppressed masses will see further worsening of their living conditions. This is why the DSM is urging labour to come out with clear programs of actions to fight these brutal policies of government.

At the last delegate conference of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) held in March 2011 where a new leadership emerged, one of the resolutions, arising from the secretariat report, mandated the leadership to come up with a comprehensive programme of action to defend workers’ rights, against privatization and all anti-poor policies. For over a year now, there is no evidence of anything being done in that respect. Except in the last strike against fuel price hike, the current labour leadership has not led any other serious national campaign in the last one year against many of the workplace attacks and neo-liberal policies confronting workers in the public and private sector. The last attempt to hold a national strike on minimum wage last year was called off in the midnight!

The labour leaders in the NLC and TUC have to wake up to their responsibility. The shoving aside of labour leaders in Oyo and Enugu State by workers during the minimum wage struggle this year and last year indicates the temper and resolve among the rank and file.

Labour must come up with a comprehensive programme of action to fight against the various attacks and anti-poor policies of the government in all sectors of the economy. This includes minimum wage, casualisation, workplaces rights, underfunding of education and health, unemployment etc. This should be linked to a principled opposition by labour to the neo-liberal policies of deregulation and privatization. As a step towards this, workers must mount a pressure on labour leaders to withdraw from the National Council on Privatization (NCP) as a sign of their readiness to fight privatization consistently.


  • Full implementation of N18, 000 minimum wage by all defaulting state governments and private companies and factories employing 50 or more workers.
  • No to casualisation. For private and public employers of labour to respect labour laws and for improvement in the working conditions and pay of private sector workers.
  • Increase in retiree’s pension and for a humane process of retirees verification and payment that takes account of convenience of pensioners. No to Government pro-market pension reforms. For a state organized pension administrator having elected representatives of trade unions and pensioners representatives
  • For mass employment and job creation. Currently youth unemployment stands at 42% -over 28 million jobless young people. This is tragic future for young people.
  • No to fee hike and education underfunding. A massive programme funded by the government to build more primary, secondary and tertiary schools, improve facilities in schools at all levels and improved remunerations for teaching and non-teaching staffs.
  • For adequate funding of education as a step towards provision of free education at all levels. For democratic running of schools to include elected representatives of students and staff unions.
  • No to privatization of healthcare. For improved funding of public hospitals and a crash program funded by the state to improve facilities in hospitals and expand healthcare access to the nook and crannies of the country.
  • No to privatization of the PHCN and other public corporations. Public electricity must be kept public and placed under the democratic control and management of elected representatives of workers and relevant professionals. For massive program funded by the state to improve electricity generation.
  • Not a kobo increase of fuel price above N97, for reversal to N65. Smash the monopoly of a few multinational oil companies and marketers over Nigeria’s oil resources. Nationalize the oil industry under the democratic control and management of the working people and relevant professionals.
  • For reduction in the outrageous salaries and allowances of all political office holders to a level not higher than the average wage of a skilled worker.
  • No to corruption and stealing of collective wealth. For a public tribunal constituted by workers and poor people to investigate and try all political office holders, fuel marketers and oil companies involved in the systematic pillaging of Nigeria’s oil wealth.
  • Take Nigeria’s wealth off the 1%. For nationalization of key sectors of the economy including banks and oil industries under democratic workers control and management with compensation paid on the basis of proven need.
  • For a worker’s party with socialist programme to wrest political power from the capitalist looters and bandits in power and begin to reorganize society in the interest of the mass majority.

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April 2012