COVID-19: Labour Movement, Safety and Job Security
*Pandemic exposes global capitalism
*N30,000 minimum wage under threat
(Analysis by Rufus Olusesan):
It is no more news that Covid–19 is a pandemic that is spreading around the globe, originated from Wuham in China and has infected and killed many in Europe, Asia, America, Africa including Nigeria.
Globally, the Pandemic has exposed capitalism for having paid greater premium to private accumulation of capital and profit as against adequate investment in social services, such as healthcare delivery services, education, food production, potable water and electricity.
As consequence of this failure, the global economy is vulnerable and has entered a recession with its attendant job losses, scarcity and inflation.
In response to COVID -19, President Buhari announced first 14 days’ lockdown in Lagos, Ogun States and Federal capital territory, Abuja that began on March 30, 2020, which was renewed for another 14 days, easing lockdown process was fashioned out, though, spreading of COVID-19 continues unabated.
There are also different degree of restrictions and lockdown across the federation. As at 13th May, 2020, 4,787 are infected, 959 discharged while 158 deaths have been recorded so far in Nigeria. The global infections stand at over 4.3 million while global deaths are over 292,292 while around 1.5 million people recovered.
The Federal government announcement of the lockdown without consideration to our economy where majority of the people are peasant farmers, petty traders, artisans, bus drivers, casual workers left the mass of the people groaning under more poverty.
Workers and the poor observed the lockdown rules by staying at home but government failed to provide adequate palliatives needed for a successful lockdown. Government palliatives available were not adequate and some of it were hijacked by the ruling elites for either their family or party members, leaving the poor working masses to wallow in more hunger.
Arising from economic disruption due to COVID-19, which forced demand for oil downward and the oil war between Russia and Saudi Arabia led to crashing of price, the Nigerian federal government reviewed the country’s federal budget from N10.50 trillion to N10.27 trillion and is proposing further cuts of N1.5 trillion; the government equally reviewed oil benchmark from $57 per barrel to $30 per barrel. Just to remind us, larger percentage of the budget will be financed through borrowing. The over N200 billion cuts in the 2020 budget largely affected the working class and poor as the privileges of the ruling elite remained intact.
Government has officially devalued Naira from N360 to a dollar to now N380, it has grave consequence on the economy during and post COVID-19 pandemic as it will give rise to inflation, rise in cost production and attendants increase in the cost of living.
The 30,000 minimum wage signed into law since April 18, 2019 is currently under threat more than ever before, as most states are yet to implement it and many states will refuse to pay workers salary while guaranteeing the jumbo salaries, allowances, unaccounted fabulous security votes and privileges of the political office holders, which constitute huge drain on the public funds.
Government and private sector employers will force the working people to bear the consequence of COVID-19 economic crises. This time around, NLC, TUC, ULC and other Unions must mobilise Nigerian workers to defend 30,000 minimum wage, forcing government and private sector employers to implement it without retrenchment or loss of jobs.
The trade unions should be prepared to lead a struggle against this widespread sacks and fractional salary payment.
The letter on programme of action written by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to Mr. Boss Mustapha, Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on COVID-19 pandemic is a welcome development but if such programme is left to the government without struggles, it will never materialise.