May Day 2024: A Clarion Call to Nigeria Labour

May 2, 2024 | Press Releases

The International Workers Day is marked on May 1 across the world, to celebrate workers and further the continuous demand for social and economic justice. This special day for workers dates back to 1886 when workers in Chicago embarked on a strike as part of demand for a just eight-hour working day. By 1889, the International Congress of Socialist Parties in Europe, after a meeting in Paris, France, chose May 1 as Workers Day as a special day to celebrate and express solidarity with workers. Thus, on May 1, 1923, in Chennai, the first May Day celebrations was organised by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan.

 On this day, the National Association of Seadogs, Pyrates Confraternity, NAS/PC appreciates the sacrifices, contributions and efforts of all Nigerian workers. We salute their dedication to duty and express solidarity with their continuous calls for fair treatment. We are in tune with their calls for equal economic, political and social rights, and opportunities which are vital ingredients in accelerating the fight against poverty and injustice.

 Indeed, the theme for this year’s celebration: ‘Social Justice and Decent Work for All’ is apt for Nigerian Workers who are facing one of the worst economic crises in their lifetimes. In the past few months, they have watched their purchasing power greatly eroded due to the adoption of economic prescriptions of the Bretton Woods Twins- International Monetary Fund and World Bank by the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

 Presently, the living conditions of Nigerian workers have worsened considerably. Headline inflation currently stands at 33.20% food inflation is 40.01%, transportation cost is beyond the reach of the average worker while insecurity has not abated in the midst of removal of electricity subsidies for Band A consumers and gruelling petrol scarcity in several states. Worse still, as industries and firms go under over high operational costs, job losses have increased sharply.

 Disappointingly, Labour Unions which featured prominently in the fight for independence and were in the trenches in the struggle for democracy have since lost their voices. They can only recall the glorious days of vigorous labour activism in the face of the daunting challenges facing the Nigerian worker. Its umbrella body, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and Trade Union of Nigeria, TUC,  have lost touch with the Nigerian people. The ideological underpinnings, robust scholarship and negotiation vibrancy which were once associated with them have since given way to hustling in several forms. NLC and TUC are often at loggerheads, abdicating their responsibilities to fight for Nigerian workers. In several states, the state chapters of NLC and TUC, and affiliates unions have become mere appendages of the state government, often singing praises of incompetent state governors and staging solidarity rallies for political interests while the common patrimony of the people is frittered away.

 NAS/PC believes that at this period, the Labour Unions led by NLC and TUC must engage in self retrospection, retrace their steps to regain their activism focus and redeem their image in the eyes of Nigerians. First, the NLC and TUC must resolve their differences and close ranks to forge a united front to emancipate the Nigerian Worker. Both unions need to jettison their sole fixation on workers in the public sector and explore ways to galvanise all workers in Nigeria for strategic efficacy. The current economic hardship is not limited to civil servants and workers in the public sector; its effect on workers in the private sector where there are no labour unions to fight for the workers is even more debilitating.

 We recognise the importance of the current demand for higher wages by the Labour Unions and we encourage them to press ahead with the negotiations. However, it is important to note that higher wages for a small segment of the society is not the panacea for economic rebirth. All over the world, the public sector cannot by itself drive the economy to accelerate development, a thriving private-led economy is needed to build the desired economy which guarantees a conducive atmosphere for living, steady provision of jobs and economic prosperity for the people. This calls for a focused NLC and TUC to be at the forefront for the demand of an economy that can cater for the Nigerian worker, create jobs, accelerate industrialization and ultimately stimulate development.

 We expect the NLC and TUC to mobilise all workers and by extension Nigerians in the push for a genuine and sincere political movement to sensitise Nigerians on political participation, electing the right leadership to salvage Nigeria, and holding that leadership to account. This is the clarion call the Nigeria Labour must heed to save the Nigerian Worker.

 Abiola Owoaje

NAS Capoon



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