The third session of the Young Workers Training introduced young members of trade unions to the challenges that Nigeria’s political and economic system pose to workers. This session forms part of a six-month programme of FES Nigeria, in collaboration with IndustriAll Africa, aimed at increasing the active youth participation in Nigerian trade unions. Despite the fundamental importance of young people to trade unions, they often have little understanding of how trade unions function. During this module titled ‘Politics and Economy’, the participants engaged in a for two-day discussions on Nigeria’s political and economic system, its implications for the world of work as well as strategies for trade unions to improve conditions for workers.
The training was facilitated by Comrade Gbenga Komolafe, Secretary-General of the Federation of Informal Workers Organisation of Nigeria (FIWON). On the first day of the programme, he provided the participants with a basic overview of the socio-economic system of Nigeria and the evolution of a neoliberal regime in the country. Furthermore, the interrelation between democracy and neo-liberal economics was explored.
The second day focused on the implications of Nigeria’s political and economic system for the world of work. For instance, through the increasing privatization of education, more and more young people enter the labour market with poor skills. Furthermore, companies tend to rely on flexible employment contracts and poorly remunerate their workers. Another consequence is the expansion of the informal economy characterized by low productivity, poor earnings and the absence of social protection.
Based on those insights, the participants brainstormed on ideas for a social and economic system that takes the needs of Nigerian workers into account. Amongst others, it was suggested to replace the currently existing minimum wage by a higher living wage, to introduce democratic control of industries by the workers, as well as to establish free compulsory education. These discussions on possibilities to change Nigeria’s economic and political system in the interest of workers were augmented with a consideration of different potential pathways to sustainable development in Nigeria.
It is expected that the participants will carry the new insights gained into their respective trade unions. Eventually, it is envisioned that they will strive for a change in policies of their unions, taking the ideas discussed during the training into account.