Teachers forced to go back on Strike
By Chinedu Bosah
The Nigerian teachers have been spoiling for another round of industrial action to force state governments to implement Teachers Salary Scale (TSS) as agreed by the 36 states governors in August 2008. The western zone of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) comprising Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo states, also known as EDOLOOKOE, have given their state governments ultimatum that would lapse on February 25. Their counterparts in south east Nigeria have also given similar strike notice.
The NUT had on June 29 last year embarked on strike, which lasted for 5 weeks to press home the demand for improved salary scale and better working condition. The strike was called of after the governors under the auspices of Governors’ Forum signed agreement with teachers to pay 27.5 percent salary increase with effect from January 2009.
The NUT had earlier demanded that the Federal Government should issue a white paper that would serve as a standard for states. The Federal Government had refused arguing that on the basis of “true federalism” all state wings of NUT should go and negotiate with their respective state governments. It is instructive to note that “true federalism” is never considered when the salaries of political office holders are fixed. The Revenue, Mobilisation and fiscal commission (RMAFC), a federal government agency, from time to time stipulates the salaries and allowances of all political office holders irrespective of the states.
Given the antecedents and the anti-workers posture of the federal and state governments, it was obvious that the Governors’ Forum, a body not known to law, had signed the agreement just to buy time as they would ignore the implementation when the time comes.
An article in the Socialist Democracy of Sept/Oct 2008 written by Victor Osakwe had raised this observation. The article reads in part, “while the agreement has really scaled down the TSS demands, the state governments can still renege on it inventing various excuses. Therefore, teachers and organised labour must be prepared to resume another round of struggle for improved pay and living condition.”
As we go to press, most states including the media-hyped Babatunde Fashola government of Lagos State and Kwara State whose governor Bukola Saraki is the Chairman of the Governors’ Forum have not implemented the agreement. In fact, a senior aid of Governor Fashola had told the state house of assembly that the state government could not implement the agreement because of its ongoing infrastructure projects and distribution of books to students. Beyond the media razzmatazz, for the poor masses of Lagos the only known projects being carried out by the Lagos state government are planting of flowers at strategic places while the access roads are deplorable and the demolition of properties and markets. Besides, there cannot be any reasonable excuse for not paying teachers the salary increment.
Before the EDOLOOKOE ultimatum, the Ogun and Osun wings of NUT had separately threatened to embark on an indefinite strike action. They only suspended it in deference to the joint strike notice. This has shown that most state leaders of NUT, who had in last strike reduced the TSS to demand for a circular from the Federal Government, having been afraid to confront their respective state governments, have realised that the struggle has hit home.
In all the states of the federation, education has been largely underfunded and ignored. The primary school and secondary level have been the worst hit. The facilities are in a deplorable shape and the schools are hugely understaffed despite the huge resources that have accrued to the country as a result of the long years of oil boom. The ruling elite and the rich have sought succour in private schools as their children attend expensive private schools in and out of the country.
As the struggle moves from one state to another, the each state wing of NUT will have to settle scores with its own state government. Nevertheless, the national leadership of the teachers union must be practically involved in this struggle. NUT should in earnest before the ultimatum lapses begin the mass mobilisation of members and solicit the support and solidarity of other industrial unions, pro-masses organisations and the public.
As it did in the last strike, the NLC should actively support this planned action. Together with TUC they should match the struggle of teachers for TSS with the demand for N52, 200 minimum wage. The struggle must include concrete actions such as nationwide symposium, rallies, mass circulation of leaflets, mass demonstrations etc.
It is also instructive to state that whatever concessions that may be won are only going to be temporary if the NLC, TUC and LASCO do not take the struggle to the political arena with the aim to replace this thieving ruling elite with a democratic, working people government. The policies and programs of such government would be tailored towards meeting the socio-economic needs of the people and guaranteeing quality and free education, health, jobs, infrastructure etc., for all. Anything short of this is giving the self serving ruling elite the ample opportunity to continue wrecking economic and political havoc on Nigeria working masses.