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Posts tagged ‘Labor’

Oastler’s Letter Shocked England.


Dan Graves, MSL

Oastler's Letter Shocked EnglandRichard Oastler was outraged. Born into a Wesleyan Methodist family and educated by Moravians, he was a man of conscience who believed words should be matched with deeds. That is why he took up his pen to write a letter. The letter, blasting “Yorkshire Slavery” was published on this day, September 29, 1830 in the Leeds Mercury.

“It is the pride of Britain that a slave cannot exist on her soil,” he began. Richard declared himself in complete sympathy with efforts to end slavery. However, slavery was not limited to the colonies, he said: “Let truth speak out, appalling as the statement may appear. The fact is true. Thousands of our fellow-creatures and fellow-subjects, both male and female, the miserable inhabitants of a Yorkshire town, (Yorkshire now represented in Parliament by the giant of anti-slavery principles) are this very moment existing in a state of slavery, more horrid than are the victims of that hellish system ‘colonial’ slavery.”

Their slavery took a different form, to be sure, but slavery it was, all the same. “Thousands of little children, both male and female, but principally female, from seven to fourteen years of age, are daily compelled to labour from six o’clock in the morning to seven in the evening, with only–Britons, blush while you read it!– with only thirty minutes allowed for eating and recreation.”

Action was needed. “‘Vow one by one, vow altogether, vow with heart and voice, eternal enmity against oppression by your brethren’s hands; Till man nor woman under Britain’s laws, nor son nor daughter born within her empire, shall buy, or sell, or HIRE, or BE A SLAVE!” his long, passionate letter thundered.

From that day forward, Richard was as good as his word. He labored without ceasing to get conditions improved. That very September, one of the factory owners, John Wood, approached Richard, saying, “I have had no sleep tonight. I have been reading the Bible and in every page I have read my own condemnation. I cannot allow you to leave me without a pledge that you will use all your influence in trying to remove from our factory system the cruelties which are practiced in our mills.”

Richard promised to do what he could. “I felt that we were each of us in the presence of the Highest and I knew that that vow was recorded in Heaven,” he said.

His letter was read by John Hobhouse, a radical member of Parliament. Hobhouse immediately introduced a bill that would not permit children under nine to work, eliminated night work for children, and limited their hours of employment to ten a day. A modified bill without teeth in it soon passed, but Richard had to fight for a stronger act, enforced by penalties.

In another letter written four years later, he said, “The mill-owners obtained their wealth by overworking and by defrauding the factory children. They were praying people, but took care their work people should neither have time nor strength to pray. These hypocrites pretended it was necessary to keep these poor infant slaves at this excruciating labour just to preserve them from ‘bad company’ and to prevent them learning ‘bad habits’.”

Richard helped form Short Time Committees in major industrial cities to improve hours of work. He advocated sabotage of machinery in cases where employers were especially cruel. Rejecting laissez faire capitalism, he insisted that producers follow St. Paul’s injunction that “The husbandman [i.e.: worker] who labors, must be the first partaker of the fruits.”

Next time that you have to work no more than an eight hour day, remember Richard Oastler and his “Yorkshire Slavery” letter which fired the shot that changed your world.

Bibliography:

  1. Cowherd, Raymond Gibson. The Humanitarians and the Ten Hour Movement in England.Boston, Baker Library, Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, 1956.
  2. Driver, Cecil Herbert. Tory Radical; the life of Richard Oastler. New York, Oxford University Press, 1946.
  3. Oastler, Richard. Richard Oastler: king of factory children; six pamphlets, 1835-1861. New York, Arno Press, 1972.
  4. Spargo, John. Bitter Cry of the Children. New York: Macmillan, 1913. Source of the image.
  5. Various internet articles such as Oastler’s letter to the Leeds Mercury on Yorkshire Slavery http://www.cooper.edu/humanities/core/hss3/r_oastler.html

Last updated June, 2007.

The Ruse Of True Federalism In The Hands Of The Profiteering Elites! By Jaye Gaskia.


By Jaye Gaskia

‘True Federalism’ has over the years and decades become the swan song of every ‘progressive’ politician, activists and revolutionaries alike! But what is true federalism? Does true federalism mean the same thing to each of these categories of social forces and social formations? What does it mean to so-called progressive politicians? What does it mean to activists and active citizens? And what does it mean to revolutionaries?

Let us illustrate with two of the most recent, but also recurring examples. On Local Government governance; progressive politicians have been united with their conservative counterparts on rejection of what is referred to in popular discourse as ‘Local Government autonomy’. So in this particular instance they insist that everything that has to with the running of local governments should be left exclusively to the states to manage. On the surface of it, this makes sense, and sounds commonsensical. But we also know that in practical terms, in reality, common sense is not always that common, and what sounds commonsensical, is not always factual.

What do we mean? In our own context, we operate a Federation, and Federal constitution, where the component federating units are created by the Federal center; where they do not have their own constitutions, and where, they actually do not enjoy fiscal autonomy and have to go cap in hand every month to Abuja to beg for their share [and the LGA’s as well] of the revenue allocation! This is therefore at best a dysfunctional federation and federal system.

In a proper Federation, [and the nature and character of polities, including federal systems, is an evolving one, and keeps changing with practice], where the federal union was the result of consenting constituent units, the articles of federation would have laid down some very minimum standards that every citizen or resident of the federal entity, and every administrative unit of the entity would have to meet, and enjoy. And one would also then expect that the constituent units would then have their own articles of existence or constitutions, which cannot provide less than the minimum standards agreed by the federation. In such an instance, coupled with the fiscal autonomy of the federating units, we can then speak of administrative units under the states of federating components being the exclusive preserve of the federating units, once they meet the minimums agreed in the article of federation.

But here we have a situation where the federal constitution recognizes states as the federating units, but equally recognize three tiers of government, with the LGAs as the third tier; and accords to each tier a share to be agreed to by all, of the total federal revenue. In such an instance, and given the history of the muscling of local autonomy by states, with respect to taking over their share of the revenue allocation, and running them not as democratic entities but as appendages of the state chief executive’s office; it behooves on those of us whose allegiance is to the working, toiling and impoverished majority of Nigerians, those of us who owe allegiance to the content of processes and not just to their forms, to insist on fiscal as well as administrative autonomy of the LGAs within their states! It is important that we insist that they have direct access to their share of the revenue allocation; and that their properly and popularly elected governments are allowed to run the affairs of the LGAs within the bounds of the laws of the state and the federation.

Now let us move on to the second instance to illustrate the issue being discussed. This relates to the minimum wage for workers. Again, progressive as well as conservative politicians and governors are united in their assertion that the question of minimum wage should be left to states to decide, again because this is a federation! Yet, these politicians, as governors, deputy governors, commissioners, speakers, deputy speakers, lawmakers, and aides to politicians all receive identical wages and allowances; even if in some instances there may be additional allowances which may differ from state to state! So whereas a minimum and uniform baseline of wages for politicians is appropriate in a federation, but a minimum and uniform baseline of wages for workers and working people is not appropriate for a federation! What self serving hollowness! Again, those whose allegiance is to ordinary citizens, the majority who are toiling, exploited, but impoverished; those whose allegiance is to social justice and equity, for those people, the question of the minimum wages and uniform baseline standards for workers and working people cuts across the entire federation!

As activists and even as revolutionaries, there can be no difference between our attitude to a national minimum wage regime for working people, and fiscal and governance autonomy for local governments! We cannot have the luxury of saying No to one, and Yes to the other!

There are no such things in reality as ‘Value free Federation or federalism’; ‘value free democracy’ etc. We are interested not just in the end, but also in the means; not only in form, but in content, not only in appearances but also in essence!

The most important thing is that a system and process can only work for a people if their active participation and involvement is not only encouraged, but ensured.

These two examples show us how truly nonexistent is the difference between the so-called progressive politicians and their conservative counterparts. They are one and the same; it does not matter if they are APC or PDP [regardless of its many incarnations].

This is why We must take our destinies into our own hands, retrieve our country from the death and vice grip of the swarm of locusts and Take Back Nigeria.

Visit: takebacknigeria.blogspot.com; Follow me on Twitter: @jayegaskia & [DPSR]protesttopower; Interact with me on Facebook: Jaye Gaskia & Take Back Nigeria
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters 

The Ruse Of True Federalism In The Hands Of The Profiteering Elites! By Jaye Gaskia.


By Jaye Gaskia

‘True Federalism’ has over the years and decades become the swan song of every ‘progressive’ politician, activists and revolutionaries alike! But what is true federalism? Does true federalism mean the same thing to each of these categories of social forces and social formations? What does it mean to so-called progressive politicians? What does it mean to activists and active citizens? And what does it mean to revolutionaries?

Let us illustrate with two of the most recent, but also recurring examples. On Local Government governance; progressive politicians have been united with their conservative counterparts on rejection of what is referred to in popular discourse as ‘Local Government autonomy’. So in this particular instance they insist that everything that has to with the running of local governments should be left exclusively to the states to manage. On the surface of it, this makes sense, and sounds commonsensical. But we also know that in practical terms, in reality, common sense is not always that common, and what sounds commonsensical, is not always factual.

What do we mean? In our own context, we operate a Federation, and Federal constitution, where the component federating units are created by the Federal center; where they do not have their own constitutions, and where, they actually do not enjoy fiscal autonomy and have to go cap in hand every month to Abuja to beg for their share [and the LGA’s as well] of the revenue allocation! This is therefore at best a dysfunctional federation and federal system.

In a proper Federation, [and the nature and character of polities, including federal systems, is an evolving one, and keeps changing with practice], where the federal union was the result of consenting constituent units, the articles of federation would have laid down some very minimum standards that every citizen or resident of the federal entity, and every administrative unit of the entity would have to meet, and enjoy. And one would also then expect that the constituent units would then have their own articles of existence or constitutions, which cannot provide less than the minimum standards agreed by the federation. In such an instance, coupled with the fiscal autonomy of the federating units, we can then speak of administrative units under the states of federating components being the exclusive preserve of the federating units, once they meet the minimums agreed in the article of federation.

But here we have a situation where the federal constitution recognizes states as the federating units, but equally recognize three tiers of government, with the LGAs as the third tier; and accords to each tier a share to be agreed to by all, of the total federal revenue. In such an instance, and given the history of the muscling of local autonomy by states, with respect to taking over their share of the revenue allocation, and running them not as democratic entities but as appendages of the state chief executive’s office; it behooves on those of us whose allegiance is to the working, toiling and impoverished majority of Nigerians, those of us who owe allegiance to the content of processes and not just to their forms, to insist on fiscal as well as administrative autonomy of the LGAs within their states! It is important that we insist that they have direct access to their share of the revenue allocation; and that their properly and popularly elected governments are allowed to run the affairs of the LGAs within the bounds of the laws of the state and the federation.

Now let us move on to the second instance to illustrate the issue being discussed. This relates to the minimum wage for workers. Again, progressive as well as conservative politicians and governors are united in their assertion that the question of minimum wage should be left to states to decide, again because this is a federation! Yet, these politicians, as governors, deputy governors, commissioners, speakers, deputy speakers, lawmakers, and aides to politicians all receive identical wages and allowances; even if in some instances there may be additional allowances which may differ from state to state! So whereas a minimum and uniform baseline of wages for politicians is appropriate in a federation, but a minimum and uniform baseline of wages for workers and working people is not appropriate for a federation! What self serving hollowness! Again, those whose allegiance is to ordinary citizens, the majority who are toiling, exploited, but impoverished; those whose allegiance is to social justice and equity, for those people, the question of the minimum wages and uniform baseline standards for workers and working people cuts across the entire federation!

As activists and even as revolutionaries, there can be no difference between our attitude to a national minimum wage regime for working people, and fiscal and governance autonomy for local governments! We cannot have the luxury of saying No to one, and Yes to the other!

There are no such things in reality as ‘Value free Federation or federalism’; ‘value free democracy’ etc. We are interested not just in the end, but also in the means; not only in form, but in content, not only in appearances but also in essence!

The most important thing is that a system and process can only work for a people if their active participation and involvement is not only encouraged, but ensured.

These two examples show us how truly nonexistent is the difference between the so-called progressive politicians and their conservative counterparts. They are one and the same; it does not matter if they are APC or PDP [regardless of its many incarnations].

This is why We must take our destinies into our own hands, retrieve our country from the death and vice grip of the swarm of locusts and Take Back Nigeria.

Visit: takebacknigeria.blogspot.com; Follow me on Twitter: @jayegaskia & [DPSR]protesttopower; Interact with me on Facebook: Jaye Gaskia & Take Back Nigeria
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters 

David Nelson: US Workforce Can’t Continue to Look in Rear-View Mirror.


David Nelson is chief strategist of Belpointe Asset Management and a Moneynews contributor.

I usually find myself in agreement with most of Bill O’Reilly’s nightly memos.

He does a masterful job of taking on the difficult issues facing our society. However, when he delves into the world of economics, he sometimes doesn’t grasp the secular themes at the heart of the problem.

In a recent show he talked about the economy, referring to fast-food workers who are
protesting for higher wages. He is mistaken about the root causes behind the inability of workers to move up to higher-paying jobs.

Editor’s Note: Put the World’s Top Financial Minds to Work for You

While I agree with him that raising the minimum wage isn’t the answer, it’s important to fully understand changes in the world economy and its effects here at home.

Many workers today have little desire to push themselves or move outside their comfort zone. However, there are even more going the extra mile at work while continuing their education — and they receive little or no reward for their efforts. The world has changed and today’s employed often don’t have the same opportunities their parents did.

Decades ago, the U.S. dominated the world’s economic arena both in education and opportunity. Today, that is no longer true.

China and other countries became the manufacturing centers of the world offering an educated and productive workforce, ready to take over jobs once enjoyed by millions of Americans. Willing to work for less, they’ve attracted industries from every corner of the globe.

The end result is a double-edged sword. As consumers, we reap the benefits of cheaper goods but the effects on our job market are obvious.

Big-muscle jobs go to where big-muscle jobs are cheap — and that simply isn’t here. Water always seeks its own level. Until the cost of manufacturing a good on one side of the planet is the same as the other side, the flow of capital and jobs will be out of balance.

For the last decade, the standard of living for many Americans has declined and that problem has actually accelerated during the last few years. How many of you reading this enjoy a lifestyle that even approaches where you were 10 years ago? If you do, you are in the minority.

Part of the problem is the two bubble economies we’ve witnessed since 1999. The Internet bubble and the housing bust both destroyed wealth at all levels of our society.

However, the real damage to our standard of living is the simple fact that we now live in a global society.

The United States may still enjoy the highest standard of living but global competition has forever changed the work dynamic and has dulled our competitive edge.

I suspect that over the next decade, the standard of living of our competitors will rise and the standard of living for many Americans will continue to fall until both are in balance. Adopting a “woe is me” attitude is never the answer.

Over time, workers in other countries will demand higher wages. The increased pressure on margins will force these companies to raise prices and the United States will appear relatively more competitive.

The concept of the 9-5 job is all but a memory and the family of today, with two working spouses, is the norm. There is much we can do to improve our education, including new online options that dramatically reduce cost.

We will live longer than our parents and should probably expect to work longer as well.

We need to stop living in the past, looking to government to buy us back the lifestyle of yesterday.

Editor’s Note: Put the World’s Top Financial Minds to Work for You

© 2013 Moneynews. All rights reserved.

By David Nelson

NLC and Minimum Wage: The Task Ahead By Salihu Moh. Lukman.


By Salihu Moh. Lukman

Once again the issue of minimum wage is reverberating in the Nigerian media following the consideration by the National Assembly to move it from the exclusive list to the concurrent list in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution. By that proposal of the National Assembly, Part I, item 34 of Second Schedule will be amended to move the sentence “prescribing a national minimum wage for the Federation or any part thereof” to Part II.

The NLC has registered its opposition to this proposal arguing that the “removal will unnecessarily expose Nigerian workers, especially those in the low-income bracket with grave implications for security, productivity and national well-being, as most state governments if given the latitude, will pay wages as low as one thousand Naira per month in spite of the relative enormous resources available to them.” This was contained in a statement by the NLC President, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar.

While the position of the NLC is very understandable, it is however founded on a very weak and erroneous premise. In the first place there is the implicit assumption that there is relatively “enormous resources available” to all governments and perhaps all employers in the country. Related to that is the apparent conclusion that the “enormous resources” are equitably distributed to all employers across the country, be it public or private.

It needs to be emphasised that minimum wage law is applicable to all employers – private and public. Partly because the process leading to passage of the 2010 Minimum Wage Act was dictated by the capacity of the Federal Government to pay N18,000 should not cover the reality that many employers, including some state governments have been unable to implement the N18,000 minimum wage. This much was acknowledged in the statement by Comrade Omar. This highlights the existence of a problem which may also translate into wiping out some small employers out of business with the consequence of all workers employed by such employers thrown back to the labour market.

There is certainly both conceptual and empirical problem with respect to the framework for minimum wage legislation in Nigeria. While it may be advantageous today for Nigerian trade unions based on some faulty notion of statutory awards that would threatened employment as well as almost proved impossible for unions to enforce, it could be debated that in the long run it may be a disadvantage. Imagine a scenario whereby either price of Nigerian crude in the international market crashed or the market become smaller. If the argument for “enormous resources” is informed by current revenue from oil as determinant for minimum wage and not workers output or production levels, the NLC position with respect to minimum wage is to say the least injurious to Nigerian workers.

The point is, it is wrong to hinge argument for current statutory framework for minimum wage in Nigeria based on a pedestrian belief that there is relatively “enormous resources”. Relative to what? This is the common perception in the country today, which has impacted negatively on productivity and has virtually reduced most Nigerians to rent-seeking behaviours. The dignity of labour and the human person is commonly sacrificed on the alter of cheap search for free money. Contractual responsibilities have been reduced to nothing.

It is important to emphasise that relatively “enormous resources” is a perception that is easily justifiable with reference to perhaps current levels of revenue from crude oil and not necessarily taking into account work indices, especially issues of workers output and its contribution to national wealth. Against the background that today, Nigeria earns more than N8 trn annually largely from crude oil, the temptation to conclude that our governments at all levels enjoy relatively “enormous resources” is appealing.

No doubt, with reference to our recent past as a nation whereby the total annual revenue of government was in the region of N2 trn, current levels of N8 trn is relatively “enormous”. The critical reality however is that this increase in revenue is not shared proportionately. On account of what can we regard states like Ebonyi and Nasarawa as enjoying “enormous resources” with less than N4 billion monthly from the Federation Account, while states like Akwa Ibom and Rivers receive more than N20 billion monthly. Perhaps with reference to a personnel cost of approximately N500 million for Ebonyi and Nasarawa, the argument for “enormous resources” may be sustained.

This financial profile is almost re-enforced by IGR profile of these states. Based on CBN 2010 Report, Akwa Ibom is reported with more than N1 billion monthly IGR and Rivers close to N5 billion monthly. Contrastingly, Nasarawa and Ebonyi were reported with less than N200 million monthly IGR. Now what will be the logic of equating the pay of workers in Akwa Ibom and Rivers with that of Nasarawa and Ebonyi?

With monthly personnel cost of approximately N500 million and monthly IGR of under N200 million, a situation where FAAC receipt crashed can be better imagined. How then can anyone be making a case for wages based on such a loose foundation? In many cases, one is tempted to argue that NLC argument as presented by Comrade Omar is driven by large dose of intellectual and organisational indolence. Given that Nigerian trade unions are almost completely absent today in all our national policy debates, they have lost rational reasoning and relied more on grandstanding and brinksmanship as a strategy, which has reduced NLC’s, and of course trade unions’ pre-occupation in the country to dominantly that of organising strikes. Nigerians today hardly hear of NLC and trade unions activities except when strikes are declared.

Logically and historically, this will not be defensible. NLC and Nigerian trade unions have been vibrant centres of first and foremost intellectual contestation which get reflected and manifested in the way union leaders relate with governments. That was the reality that projected union leaders as popular representatives of Nigerian people from the days of Imoudu to more recent eras of Summonu, Chiroma, Pascal and Adams.

Unfortunately, that is withering away with the current generation of union leadership. It is a painful reality, which accounts for such faulty and weak arguments with respect to minimum wage. This needs to be addressed urgently.

The point is, elementary analysis would caution about the consequence of adopting a bandwagon framework for minimum wage legislation that is not informed by economic indices that are related to work output. Such a framework can only result in either shortchanging workers in high-revenue states/areas or over-stretching employers in low-revenue states/areas. Certainly, a review of wage fixing theories would highlight these challenges and perhaps dangers.

It needs to be stated emphatically and unequivocally that although there is increased revenue which has resulted in improved financial profile of especially states and federal governments in the country, it has not favourably altered the structure of government finances. The main predictable reasons would be factors of corruption. Besides, given characteristically unstable international oil market, current levels of oil revenue are hardly sustainable and therefore to plot them as determining variables for price indices such as minimum wage with long term implications would be almost suicidal.

Be that as it may, there are certainly challenges that need to be addressed. The challenges border on ensuring that there is in truth “enormous resources” to guarantee higher levels of wages in the country, in the context of which issues of minimum wage can be correctly computed taken all indices into account. NLC should approach this based on a strategy of strengthening its own organisational capacity and not look for easy quick-wins that are not sustainable, which include a faulty constitutional provision such as the provision of item 34, Part 1 of Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution.

As it stand, item 34 of Part 1 of the Second Schedule is not is not sustainable and could only expose Nigerian workers to greater risks and danger. Being conversant with internal logic influencing leadership thinking in Nigerian trade movement, it is quite worrisome that NLC is approaching these matters less objectively. It has never been the case that workers will get justice on matters of employer/employee relations bordering on pay and entitlements with simple reference to the law. Had that been the case, there would be no need for unions. The business of unions will always be to develop strategies and carry out actions that can result in improved working conditions and better pay. These are issues bordering on workers input to the process of revenue generation. The big worry is when matters of pay and benefits are delinked from these factors, which appears to be the logic of the NLC argument with respect to national minimum wage legislation in Nigeria.

Of course it could be argued that this has been the case, perhaps since the 1970s. That it has been the case does not make it right. What has been the tradition of NLC and Nigerian trade unions is the courage to campaign for what is right especially in relation to workers benefits and welfare. It is a matter that requires good measure of intellectual and political capacity. The position of NLC with respect of minimum wage fixing in Nigeria is weak intellectually and politically unfounded.

Part of the political imperative is the need to engage our national politics in such a way that workers entitlements are not threatened by factors of bad governance which include corruption. This is where the recent NLC scorecard is low especially given the standards that it is known for. NLC’s voice on matters related to our political development as a nation has been very remote. Partly as a result of that, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole had at the TUC Conference on June 21 challenged organised labour “to stand up and be counted”.

Union organisation and their political roles on matters of governance are important in this respect. Somehow, it would appear that Nigerian trade unions, including the NLC have vacated their political roles and in the circumstance their capacity to correctly assess national realities and intervene based on rational consideration is weak. In so many ways, Nigerian trade unions and NLC are very lucky to have rich reservoir of history and public goodwill on account of which currently leadership seems to be very relaxed.

In summary therefore, the message to NLC and all Nigerian trade unions is that they need to wake up and reconnect themselves with their historic responsibilities. This calls for good initiatives towards organisational strengthening, conscious effort to produce knowledgeable leadership with high integrity and above all high moral standing. Challenges facing Nigerian workers today go beyond legal provisions. It is more a capacity issue in many respects. A situation where the main business of unions is only strikes with hardly no voice on national policy and governance issues will at best project unions and their leaders as pedestrians and opportunistic, which over the years they have proved not to be.

Nigerian unions and the NLC in particular have always been source of hope for our country at very trying period. So far, Comrade Omar and his team in NLC can do much more. Their intellectual, political and organisational capacity can provide much more than what they are give the nation today. The danger is that current leadership of NLC and Nigerian trade unions may be presiding over the systematic demobilisation of Nigerian workers. They need to consciously prevent that from happening.

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Paying The Police A Livable Minimum Wage By Ogaga Ifowodo.


Columnist:

Ogaga Ifowodo

The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, wants to raise the entry point salary in the force from N28,000 to N100,000. He is proposing the increase as part of his effort to reform a force that is so ill-trained, poorly equipped, unmotivated, corrupt and dangerous that it is universally vilified and held in the highest odium and ridicule of all the institutions of the dilapidated Nigerian state. The police may not entirely deserve that reputation, considering how thick the layers of slime that cover every other key organ of state. From a presidency that does not flinch at a billion naira food budget and that is eager to build a N2 billion banquet hall and a N4 billion “First Lady” secretariat, to the most expensively-paid national legislature in the world, down to ministries and parastatals whose sole reason for existence is contract-mongering, the entire Nigerian public sector is a cesspool of corruption.

Unfortunately for the police, it has by its own hand seared two images indelibly onto the mind of anyone, citizen or foreigner, who has ever travelled a kilometre or two on a busy Nigerian roadway (say from the Lagos airport to Oshodi, or along any motorable stretch of the Benin-Shagamu expressway).

They are images of gun-point extortion at roadblocks and of the cold-blooded murder of the citizen who resists being robbed.  Abubakar is aware of the daunting image problem of his force and may have taken the first genuine step at doing something concrete about it. He can hardly be faulted for wanting to start by raising the slave salaries of the lowliest of his men and women in the hope of achieving a commensurate boost in morale. A salary, after all, is meant to cater to the material needs of the worker for optimum performance and for a healthy replenishment of the labour pool. Those needs include food, housing, clothing, healthcare, school fees, leisure and saving for a rainy day as well as for retirement.  Yet, somehow, the assumption has been that N28,000 is enough to meet these needs monthly, even if a policeman had only himself to care for.  Well, not anymore. “The money you are being paid is not enough,” said Abubakar to the Plateau State Command in Jos. But his “officers and men” know that well enough, so he quickly added, “that is why the police is working towards increasing the money.” Money may not buy happiness, but it might just buy for Abubakar’s troops some sorely needed morale: “We are doing our best to ensure that your morale is high,” he said further, in the hope that they would then do their “best at ensuring that the society is free of any form of crime.’’

Quite often, when we bemoan corruption, we do not make a link to its underlying socio-economic causes. And that is mostly because we are now accustomed to hearing of billion and trillion naira thefts, sums that the ordinary duty officer at a roadblock will never haul home even if he did nothing else but collect N50 notes night and day for ten years. Yet corruption is now choking the country to death simply because it has permeated the entire fabric of our social life. Such that it is now impossible to distinguish it from the norm. Actually, it is now the norm. Under the intolerable burden of surviving literally on mere air and water, the masses followed the example of their opulent rulers and gradually changed their attitude from condemnation to condonation and approval. A fundamental revision of the ethical code, it required justification in social necessity.  As, for instance, the bleak fact that the minimum wage is N18,000. And anybody who has ever bought a fish bigger than her hand or a sizable tuber of yam knows that figure has absolutely no basis in reality.  A police constable earning N28,000 has about N900 per day. Now, try feeding one mouth — child or adult, it doesn’t matter — “three square meals” with that! And, while you are at it, be sure to never need a shirt or a pair of shoes; to pay rent or transport fare, school or doctor’s fees.

Any surprise, then, that corruption should become a way of life for us, perpetuated over time chiefly by the thieving ruling class and now enjoying the status of a paramount but unofficial policy of government? Why wouldn’t the clerk at the motor licensing office, the customs officer at the airport, the headmaster of the primary school, the local government officer in charge of market stalls, etc., demand a bribe before doing his or her duty? Back home at the close of work, will the conscientious discharge of his duties silence the wailing children? Pay the school fees of the child home for a week now? Buy the drugs to cure malaria?

Labour congress president, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, is ecstatic to the point of prayer about the IG’s proposed minimum wage for police constables.  “I pray to the almighty God that the federal government grants the request … they deserve it,” he said. And I say, As well for the cow as for the bull. Now there can be no excuse on the part of Omar not to call for a final showdown with the government for a livable minimum wage of N100,000 for all workers.
omoliho@gmail.com

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Lithuanians ditch government in verdict on austerity.


  • A woman leaves a ballot booth after casting her vote during general elections in Vilnius October 14, 2012. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

    Enlarge PhotoReuters/Reuters – A woman leaves a ballot booth after casting her vote during general elections in Vilnius October 14, 2012. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

VILNIUS (Reuters) – Lithuania‘s opposition prepared to take power on Monday after voters rejected the austerity-minded government, a foretaste of what may await other European leaders forced to make unpopular cuts by the financial crisis.

An ex-Soviet state of about three million people, Lithuania crashed hard when the crisis hit four years ago. It slashed spending in response and is now returning to economic health – but too late for voters fed up with belt-tightening.

An exit poll after a parliamentary election on Sunday showed Lithuanians had thrown out centre-right Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius in favor of a coalition of left-leaning opposition parties who promise to soften the austerity.

The government of the Baltic nation lost out despite winning praise from big European powers and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for its thrift and discipline.

“If the IMF was voting then he (the prime minister) would be re-elected,” said Kestutis Girnius, who teaches at the Institute for International Relations and Political Science in Vilnius.

“But the IMF does not live in Lithuania, and they could not live on a Lithuanian salary.”

As one of the European Union states most severely hit by the crisis, and one of the fastest to implement austerity, Lithuania is a bellwether for governments in Greece, Spain, Ireland and elsewhere, who are being forced to make similar swinging cuts.

The RAIT/BNS exit poll gave the biggest share of the vote, 19.8 percent, to the Labor Party. The centre-left Social Democrats, likely coalition partner for Labor, were second with 17.8 percent and the prime minister’s Homeland Union was in third place on 16.7 percent.

Partial official results, based on the votes that have been counted so far, ranked the parties in the same order.

The final shape of the next government will not be clear until talks take place on forming a coalition. It may come down to a second round, to take place in two weeks, which will settle races in local districts where no candidate had a clear lead.

BOOM AND BUST

The prime minister said he would fight on into the run-off round, but it appeared unlikely he would be able to stay in power, after voters held him accountable for the tough decisions he took to drag Lithuania out of crisis.

“What kind of crisis management are we talking about?” asked Alfonsus Spudys, 78, on his way out of a polling station on Sunday in the capital, Vilnius. “They scythed people down … and now they are saying they handled the crisis really well.”

Before the financial crash in 2008, Lithuania was booming. Scandinavian banks provided cheap credit which let the country buy more than it sold and over-heated the real estate market.

When the crisis struck, the banks stopped lending. Economic output dropped by 15 percent in 2009. Unemployment shot up. Thousands of young Lithuanians went abroad to seek work.

Kubilius, elected after the crisis began, cut pensions and public sector wages. To save money, only every third street lamp in Vilnius was lit, and fuel for police cars was rationed.

This discipline helped the economy rebound. Gross domestic product grew 5.8 percent last year, one of the fastest rates of any EU economy. The budget deficit has been tamed. Yet most Lithuanians feel worse off than they did four years ago.

The opposition parties expected to form the governing coalition have said they will ease the pain of austerity by increasing the minimum wage, making the rich pay higher income tax than the poor and launching job creation schemes.

Economists say the country’s still-delicate finances dictate that whoever is in government will have to stick, for the most part, to the existing austerity program.

Labor Party leader Viktor Uspaskich said the budget deficit might under certain circumstances be allowed to rise above 3 percent of gross domestic product – a threshold which the EU uses to gauge countries’ fiscal discipline.

“How otherwise can you generate (growth in) the economy if you only borrow to cover regular expenditure? You need to borrow for generating (growth),” Uspaskich, a Russian-born businessman, told Reuters in an interview late on Sunday.

(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By Andrius Sytas and Christian Lowe | Reuters

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