MTN has operated thus far in Nigeria as a private Telecommunication Company for nineteen years. It has Nigerian bosses as members of its board and who share in its profit. While imposing high tariffs on the users without adequate regulation from the telecommunication agency (NCC), the company has enjoyed many juicy benefits from the government, lining the pockets of bosses with lots of money, while it employs thousands of workers across the country on casual basis, using labour contractors.
For the first five years of operations MTN Nigeria was granted tax holiday, it is no news whose pocket some of those surplus profit of MTN Nigeria goes! The beneficiaries have been bosses, Nigerian and South African alike. The picketing of MTN offices by NLC is thus not a nationalist action. It was a manifestation of workers power in struggle against bosses and their exploitative use of our labour.
MTN subjects workers to precarious conditions with labour casualization, depriving these employees the right to join trade unions and engage in collective bargaining to negotiate their terms and conditions of employment. The results of this anti-union disposition include: lowered wages, poor welfare packages and inadequate workplace safety and health etc.
After three days of picketing MTN’s major offices across the nation from 9 July, the management of the company deployed assistance of the ministry of labour to mediate in meeting between it and the NLC leadership. This was a demonstration of how action had hit the profit-making designs of the firm. In Lagos state for instance, which was the centre of the political action, workers shut down MTN headquarter at Falomo, Lagos Island and MTN facilities at Ojota, Aromire and Apapa.
It is worthy of note that NLC tried to initiate negotiations with MTN almost a decade ago but this was to no avail, as the company arrogantly refused to proceed with further discussion that could ensure all workers in the firm were unionized. But faced with the might and power of the working class, it pleaded for negotiations.
The relationship between workers and employers (i.e. labour versus capital) is a relationship of exploitation in which the employers/bosses subjugate the labour of the workers to appropriate more wealth to themselves by accumulating profit from surplus value generated with the workers’ labour.
This is done by paying workers wages that are way below the value of the labour they expend on the job. The bosses accrue the surplus value to themselves. But, by bringing masses of workers together, big business helps to create the working-class as a powerful and most representative class of all the poor masses.
This is why Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels said in the Communist Manifesto that the bourgeois class has created its own gravedigger. Workers from different regions, of different nationalities, being women, men and youth are all bound by the conditions of exploitation which suppresses the possibility of their self-actualization, even when they are arguably paid relatively decent wages as in MTN.
The unity of the exploited class of labour is important for workers. It helps strengthen our power to collectively demand and fight for rights which include enable us to wrest concessions and improvement in our working and living standards from the bosses. Our and struggle are however even more essential for us to ultimately overthrow the capitalist system and build on its ruins working class democratic control of the economy in a socialist society.
The bosses in their usual reactionary method see this unity of the workers created by the production process under capitalist system as a threat to the continuous exploitation of the workers and to the very essence of the capitalist system that works best with “divide and rule”. They thus assumed the best solution to such unity and collectiveness of the working class is to engage in work casualization.
It is important to point out that the precarious work approach has both economic and political importance to the bosses. Economic in the sense that it allows the bosses to exploit the casual workers that are subjected to work under precarious conditions more unlike the case of the regular workers that have benefit of collective bargaining, health package, redundancy benefit, etc.
It is also political; in the sense that it discourages the workers from unionizing hence it encourages division of rank and file workers. It is on the understanding of the above analyses and positions that Socialist Workers and Youth League joined workers in the picketing of MTN offices nationwide.
We congratulate the Nigeria workers on this victory against the bosses in MTN, although it is not yet Uhuru! Equally we beckon on the NLC, TUC, labour unions, workers federations and rank and file workers to take similar approach, i.e. a mass political action to ensure that the Federal Government pays a new national minimum wage of sixty-six thousand and five hundred naira (#66,500) by September.
It is precarious for Nigeria workers to earn eighteen thousand naira (#18,000) as minimum wage in this harsh economy with high inflation. The recent victory with MTN is a manifestation of DARE TO STRUGGLE DARE TO WIN, and we can achieve similar success with the #66,500 minimum wage if we DARE TO STRUGGLE! We assure the Nigeria workers of our solidarity and total commitment to the workers struggle as we beckon workers to organize with us for a revolution from below!!
by Lai BROWN