By Victor Ahiuma-Young
THERE is no gainsaying the fact that workers have been the worst victims of economic crisis across the globe with countries like Nigeria rather than implement policies to reverse the trend, are dogmatically implementing policies that compound the woes of workers.
Concerned with the ugly development, an activist and human resource lecturer, Mr. Femi Aborisade, at the National Executive Council, NEC, meeting of , Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN, posited that short and long term measures have been advocated and implemented across the globe to mitigate the negative effects of the global economic crisis and to possibly avert future occurrences.
Delivering a paper on “How the world’s working class can confront current challenges posed by the world economic crisis”, Mr. Aborisade who lectures at the Polytechic Ibadan, Oyo state, traced the genesis of the current global economic crisis and lamented among the obvious fall-out of the crisis are increasing job loses, lower wage increase, widening wage inequality, privatisation, concessioning, increasing unfair labour practices among others.
From the standpoint of the working class, Mr. Aborisade is of the opinion that confronting the challenges posed by the economic crisis and neoliberal globalisation must begin with the responsibility of understanding correctly, the root cause of the crisis.
He contended that the financial meltdown of 2008 should be located in the inherent weakness of the capitalist system to take society forward in the current period and posited that to confront the challenges, Trade unions should advocate nationalization of all ailing private companies, including the banks, and renationalize all previously sold public enterprises and put them under democratic management and control of the workers in those enterprises, increase National Minimum Wage and wage indexation, measures to reduce inequalities, in income and wealth and to prevent unsustainable consumption patterns.
According to him: “Trade unions should advocate nationalization of all ailing private companies, including the banks, and renationalize all previously sold public enterprises and put them under democratic management and control of the workers in those enterprises.
This is the logical measure that flows from a correct understanding of the root cause of the global economic crisis. While the economic crisis has forced many capitalist advocates to recognise that the crisis is rooted in the limits of the capitalist logic, majority of them have recoiled from drawing the necessary conclusions in terms of advocating the system that negates capitalism. Nationalization is one of the fundamental lessons to be learnt from the measures being taken internationally to tackle the current economic meltdown.
Thus, in September 2008, the US Government carried out the takeover of the mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mac, in what a US Professor of history termed the ‘greatest nationalisation in the history of humanity’. Nigeria cannot afford to turn its back to the direction faced by the rest of the world.
Therefore, it is not enough to bail out failing private enterprises with public resources; they ought to be nationalized and put under democratic management and control of the workers, who work in them, so that the surplus generated can be available for public goods, including funding of education.
The use of enormous public resources to bail out private companies is nothing but socialization of private losses. Rather, such resources should be used to provide for the welfare of ordinary people and enhance their purchasing power.”
“Need to redirect economies towards wage-led, domestic-driven growth, rather than the traditional export oriented production. Need to redirect social policy towards state responsibility to ensure citizens’ realisation or enjoyment of their social and economic rights (e. g. employment or unemployment benefits) as fundamental rights, which also contributes positively to development.
Economic Development of Economic Stimulus Package: Since the outbreak of the world economic meltdown, various countries have developed different state interventionist policies meant to put money in the hands of the people so as to bring about economic revival in the context of the current economic downturn.
Across the globe, more than $2trn has been spent on various types of stimulus packages. Specific consumption subsidies. Generic consumption subsidies. Freedom of association and enforcement of the right to collective bargaining against employers who tend to advocate sector specific subsidies and measures that protect capital against labour, e.g. those that permit labour flexibility, measures supporting lowering the cost of labour, production subsidy to encourage production for export, etc.
Job promoting/creation measures, e. g. through investment in infrastructures and social services, health, education, public housing, etc. For example, Germany adopted a program of Kurzarbeit, shorter working hours and lower pay. Trade unions should however advocate shorter working hours without loss in pay.”
Increase minimum wage, wage indexation
Continuing, Mr. Aborisade contended that another lesson to be learnt from measures being taken internationally in stimulating the economy was raising of the minimum wage.
He said: “For example, in the U.S., the Federal minimum wage has been raised with effect from 24 July 2009 from $6.55 (N1,048.00) per hour to $7.25 (N1,160.00 at the prevailing exchange rate of N160:$1) per hour.
Though most States have their own minimum wage rates, employers are required to pay whichever is higher. According to a CNN report (cited in Vanguard, 27 August 2009: 33), an economist with the US Economic Policy Institute (EPI) asserts that the wage increase will inject $5.5 billion worth of extra spending into the US economy over the next year.
But in Nigeria, the minimum wage rates (N7,500 at the federal level and N5,500 at the state and local government levels) which were fixed since 2000 have not been reviewed, despite the fact that the 1999 Constitution provides for a National Minimum Living Wage (Section 16(2)(d). For the minimum wage to be an effective economic stimulator, wage indexation should operate such that wages and salaries rise as inflation rises.
Compelling the State/government to accept that “labour is not a commodity”. The perspective that labour is a commodity is a perspective that only those who are capable of producing over and above what they are paid should be provided for by the society.
But a society that declares labour not to be a commodity is one that is prepared to extend social security measures to all vulnerable groups who are in need of protection, such as a basic income, regardless of whether they are employed or not employed, and whether they work in the private or public sector.
Measures to reduce inequalities, in income and wealth and to prevent unsustainable consumption patterns. This category of measures will find support in the state funding the poor’s access to basic means of life such as health, nutrition, education, minimum physical infrastructure, including sanitation, electricity, transport and communication links.
Thus, the concept of reliance on market forces as determinants of production will find no place in the context of pervasive abject poverty of the majority. Eliminating inequalities and preventing unsustainable consumption patterns also require aligning the compensation systems in the entire economy such that there is a kind of uniformity in compensation structures, based on requirements of material need, educational or professional qualification and years of practical experience rather than salary differentiation on the basis of the sector of the economy, which is responsible for the excessively odd remuneration packages of the top executives in the banking and oil sectors, for example.