BY VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG
THE just concluded 10th National Delegates conference of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, which had a total of 1,992 delegates in attendance, was unique in several respects. One of the exceptional features of the conference was a joint document presented as manifesto by the team that now forms the National Administrative Council, NAC, of NLC, titled “Our Vision, our mission in the next four years”
The 18 points document appraised the NLC leadership in the past four years and set agenda for the next four years. It argued that in spite of numerous challenges that confronted the past leadership, it succeeded in getting a new minimum wage from N5,500.00 to N18,000.00, non-increase in fuel prices for about four years, reversal of arbitrary increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) and robust agitation for electoral reforms and free and fair elections which led to the appointment of Professor Attahiru Jega as Chairman of Idependent National Electoral Commission, INEC, among others.
Challenges in the next four years
The new leadership of NLC is not pretending about the challenges and expectations from both workers and Nigerians alike, as the team explained that it was conscious of the enormous challenges “to reorganize, restructure and further reposition the Congress in order to consolidate on the gains of the past and move the congress to the next level.”
According to the team’s manifesto, “We shall deepen the principle of Trade Union independence. Organizationally, authority and mandate for our action or inaction must flow from workers who are members and their elected leaders, and not government, employers, political parties, religious groups or corporate organizations. We will ensure the financial resource base is not dependent on any external funding, but workers and members. With independence, Unions will be able to command the confidence of workers such that when the movement is under attack,
workers/members can defend it. We as a team will ensure workers are fully involved in Union activities through mass participation. We will rededicate ourselves to internal Union democracy by allowing for members’ broad partioipation in the decision making process of Unions and remain faithful to the membership aspiration. NLC’s organs namely NAC, CWC and NEC will function more democratically and continually through collective leadership and collective responsibility. The achievements of NLC in the past four years underscore the importance of solidarity, alliance building and networking for the Trade Union movement. Our team will deepen this historic alliance with our Civil Society allies in Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO), progressive intellectuals, youth and patriotic politicians. We will at all times defend and promote the principle of “an injury to one, is an injury to all.”
The team also stressed its determination to strengthen Congress capacity for educational service delivery through regular and sustainable education for workers.
National economic development
Explaining the team economic development thrust, the document said: “Our team recognizes that sustainable economic growth and development are prerequisites for the attainment of Congress· objectives of improving the quality of work life. Congress under our leadership will oppose all neo-liberal policies such as Trade liberalization, privatization, labour market deregulation and fiscal austerity that impose hardships on working people and deepen poverty. We will advocate for a development state and insist government pursues appropriate mix of macro-economic policies that will stimulate domestic production and generate mass decent employment. With the trends of de-industrialization, smuggling, dumping of imported goods, capital flight, massive closures of industries and retrenchment occasioned by neo-liberal policies and trade liberalization, NLC under our leadership will intensify the campaign for re-industrialization, check unfair labour practices such as casual labour, management high-handedness and industrial despotism. Our team will demand for re-industrialization through massive campaign for friendly business environment, able macro-economic policy, consistent, clear and focused industrial development strategy, employment and decent jobs and patronage of made-in-Nigeria goods.”
“NLC under our leadership will lead the campaign for adequate funding of power sector and electrification of the country as a necessary condition for re-industrialization Id development. We will demand Nigeria to re-ban a number of imports such as beverages, furniture, textiles, toothpicks etc until basic infrastructures are fixed that will allow local industries to perform efficiently and optimally. ”
On employment, the new leadership of NLC in its manifesto, noted that “congress under our team will demand that people must remain the means and ends of economic development. The present prohibitive rate of unemployment amounts to wastage of human resources especially in a country without social security and safety net. The gravity of the situation in all sectors viewed against the background of existing backlog of the unemployed and new entrants into the unemployment markets demands convocation of a stakeholders summit involving governments in their dual capacity, employers, labour and other organizations with a view to addressing the problem of creating sustainable environment for new employment creation and optimal utilization of the labour force in the public/private sector. Our team will target the creation of employment opportunities for our teaming youths.”
In what the team termed towards a new labour movement, it added “Our team will; Organize the unorganized workers. Fight against casualisation and contract employment. Invest in capacity building and evolving adequate communication channels with shop-floor members to enhance union co-ordination. Rebuild and strengthen the state councils of NLC as formidable vehicles for implementing NLC programmes.”
Others significant features of document included collective bargaining, government/labour relations, labour and democracy, social policy education and national development, National Housing Fund, NHF, Education Trust Fund.