Osun NUT Calls off Strike
Osun NUT Calls off Strike
Western Zone of the Union gives 21-Day Ultimatum
The leadership of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Osun State wing, on Monday, 2nd February, called off the planned strike that had been scheduled to commence on the same day. The strike was called off on the excuse of promise of the State governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, to look into their demand for the implementation of the Teachers’ Salary Scale (TSS) (a 27.5 percent salary increase) which was agreed to be paid by all the state governments (TSS) and the federal government at the latest by January, 2009. The NUT leadership has given the state government two days to come out with its position. The agreement to implement the salary increase – a meager increment when placed side by side with workers’ living standards – was a reaction to a strong three-month strike action organized by teachers last year.
Meanwhile, the Western Zone of the union comprising Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo states have on Wednesday February 4, given a 21 day ultimatum to the state governments in the zone to implement the agreement. Their Eastern counterpart had issued a similar ultimatum last week.
The Osun State government, like its counterparts across the country, has not shown any intention to pay the new salary increase. The DSM chapter in the state had held a meeting with some of the principal officers of the NUT to see the possibility of collaboration and to suggest on how the strike could be made a mass action.
The DSM had proposed among other things the need for the state leadership of NUT to call a general congress of the teachers in order to discuss the situation and plan for practical mass action to compel government to succumb to the demands. We gathered that the leadership of the union had ruled out protest marches as part of activities during the strike. We also proposed that teachers should be allowed to organize from local branches through strike committees where plans for pickets, rallies and mass campaign would be organized. We urged the union to also start a mass education of its members and the general public on the reason for the strike through leaflets and posters. We also emphasized on the imperative to reach out to other workers’ unions, especially the central unions – NLC and TUC, and pro-masses’ organizations for solidarity actions. We moreover discussed the need to start a conscious attempt to build Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) in the state.
The leadership of the union is obviously afraid of independent actions by its members. Take for instance, the leadership, in the name of not “politicizing” the workers’ movement or being politically neutral, decided not to allow workers to have protest marches while congresses or rallies are meant to only address workers, get their support and then disperse them, as experience of the last strike action had shown. Worse still, most of the Osun teachers, not to mention other section of the working class in the state, do not know what is going on based on our interaction with many of them. In fact, many of them did not know that there was supposed to be a strike on Monday, 2nd February while the leadership was too comfortable to keep information away from its members.
While the leadership of the Osun NUT may have an excuse for calling off the strike, the reality is that it is putting workers’ fate in the hands of an irresponsible government that is not committed to the interest of the working poor. For instance, the Osun state government was a signatory, among other state governments, to the agreement reached with NUT in August last year to implement the TSS after a successful three month strike. Yet the same Osun state government was quick, while challenged on the implementation, to spuriously claim that it had started implementing the salary increase since June, 2008!
When it could not sustain the blatant lie, the Osun government has turned to claim that it has no money to pay the increase. But the same government is spending tens of million of naira to pay politicians in power and political sycophants. Just few months ago, the state house of assembly approved 25 “executive assistants” on a N50, 000 wage for each of the chairmen of the 30 local governments; while members of boards of commissions and agencies – who are patrons of incumbent government – are placed on hundreds of thousands salaries. This is why despite billions that has accrued to the state, it is one of the poorest in terms of infrastructures and employment in the country. This kind of government cannot be relied upon on the basis of governor’s verbal pledge.
On this basis, we of in the DSM are of the strong opinion that the strike should have been continued at least as a one-day warning strike to register its resolve to humble the government to implement the agreement. The strike, if at all is to be called off, should have been at the behest of the mass of teachers themselves through local and state-wide congresses, where teachers in their mass would have reviewed the situation, and basing themselves on balance of force, and decided whether the strike should continue or not. The arbitrary action of the NUT in the state reflects the crisis in workers’ movement in Nigeria where the leadership is far away from the yearning and the long term interests of its mass base.
Now that 21 day ultimatum has been issued by the Zonal leadership of the union including Osun State, an action plan should be immediately evolved to commence mobilization of the rank and file teachers for a strike action and raise public support should the governments fail to implement the agreement.
For us in the DSM Osun State chapter, who issued a public statement in support of the Osun NUT strike when it was called, we shall continue to support workers’ mass actions and interests – both on a short- and long-term basis. We have also planned to issue a leaflet to make our position known to the teachers and workers in general and to link this with the demand of workers for N52, 200 minimum wage and to build a new pan-Nigerian mass workers’ party that will provide alternative to the capitalist rottenness called political parties in Nigeria.