WORKERS` STRIKES IN OYO STATE:
WORKERS` STRIKES IN OYO STATE:
A call for a United Action and Working People Political Alternative
By Abbey Trotsky
The perennial economic cum political attacks every pro-capitalist government now characteristically unleashes on workers and other categories of toiling working masses has kept throwing up repeated resistance from workers in Oyo state. In the last five months, workers in different sectors have embarked on one form of strike or the other to press home their various demands that mainly centre on the implementation of agreements which the employers had earlier reached with the aggrieved workers.
This month has seen socio-economic activities in the state paralyzed by the indefinite industrial actions embarked upon by workers in education, health and judiciary sectors across the state under the auspices of Nigeria Union of Teacher (NUT), Association of Medical and Dental Officers (AMDO) and Judiciary Staff Association of Nigeria (JASAN) respectively. As a result, public primary and secondary schools, hospitals and court rooms have been under lock and key in the state.
As we write no fewer than 100 people, including 12 pregnant women, have been reported to have died in Ibadan metropolis alone as result of the industrial action embarked upon by medical doctors in the state. The indefinite strike action was kicked-off on August 2, 2010, following the failure of Alao-Akala government to meet the demands of doctors after a 5-day warning strike. These demands include: the implementation of Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS); payment of arrears from January; removal of the obnoxious tax regime impose on doctors and recruitment of at least 100 more doctors in the state.
According to National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), the lack of adequate and functional facilities in hospitals in the state has made the working condition of workers in the health sector not only so terrible but also hazardous. The NARD, which is an association of doctors at the tertiary level of health sector, mandated all its members to embark on a 2-day solidarity strike in support of AMDO demands as means to protest the growing decay in the health sector.
Following a 21-day warning strike, the Oyo State chapter of NUT opted for an indefinite strike to protest the refusal of the state government to implement of the approved 27.5% pay rise for teachers in the state.
It will be recalled that on the 29th of June, 2008, the entire public school teaching staff across the country embarked on a nationwide strike to demand the implementation of the white paper on the Teachers Salary Scale (TSS). During this popular strike that lasted for 6 weeks, the state governors on the platform of “The Governors Forum” negotiated a 27.5% salary increase with striking teachers across the country with effect from the January 2009. Despite the fact that the agreements of a 27.5% pay rise watered down the TSS demands, Oyo State government remains the only state in the south-western states and one of about five in the country that is yet to make any categorical commitment as to when the implementation of this agreement will take-off.
Good enough, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) University of Ibadan Chapter has expressed solidarity with the striking teachers. Also, the state chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) has asked its members to keep off roads for 12 hours on Tuesday August 17, 2010 in solidarity with the teachers.
On their part, the judiciary workers under the auspices of JUSUN flagged off the indefinite strike on the Monday, 9th August. This ongoing strike embarked upon by the judiciary workers in the state has made it the third of its kind this year alone. The first and second which took place in March and May respectively were just warning strikes meant to persuade the state government to yield to her responsibility. Parts of the JUSUN demands include the implementation of the unified judiciary salary structure which was recommended by the National Wages and Salaries Commission; the release of outstanding promotions of judiciary staff among others demands that call for improvement in their living and working conditions.
Looking at the demands of the workers of different sectors, one thing is clear and that is that, all the demands reflect the economic agitation for improvement in their living and working conditions. Unfortunately, the Alao Akala administration giving the excuse of financial distress has reneged on the implementation of any these demands. The excuse of the government is false.
Between 2008 till now, Oyo State has been reported to have amassed over N250billion. But nothing fundamental can be shown for this in term of improved living and working conditions, social services and infrastructure development in the state except massive propaganda, white elephant projects, frauds, wastages like the state sponsorship of governor’s birthday and maintenance of an army of political hirelings at the state’s expense.
It is good some unions have identified with the struggle of workers in the state, but for the action to be more effective the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress should call for one-day solidarity strike by all workers in the state. This should be matched with a series of peaceful rallies and protest marches to compel the Alao-Akala PDP government to meet the demands of workers.
It is however imperative for workers in the state to draw a correct political lesson from the refusal of the Akala government to implement agreements despite the availability of need resources. The fact that it is only in Oyo state that workers have had to go on strike at one or the other for demands on improved living and working conditions should not be lost on them. For instance in Osun for the past two months the workers at four higher institutions of learning owned by the state government have been on strike, yet the government has not shown any commitment to end the industrial action. There is also similar action in Edo state involving workers of the state higher institutions because Adams Oshiomhole’s government has not implemented the agreement with them.
The reason is because the parties in government at all levels subscribes to various anti-poor capitalist neo-liberal policies. But they can be forced back by determined struggle, particularly if the struggles in different sectors are drawn together in common action backed by an energetic campaign to win support from the broader layers of working people and poor. However even if workers win any of their demand through their concerted and persistence struggle now, it would require as much if not greater battle to keep these gains, for as long as this capitalist system remains whatever is given to workers would always be taken back.
Therefore, labour and working masses need a coherent economic and political agenda which can provide a working class alternative to the self-serving neo-liberal capitalist policies. This is why we in Democratic Socialist Movement have consistently called on the NLC, TUC and labour movement to build Labour Party as a mass fighting working class political alternative with a socialist programme. This will ensure that the party is capable of defeating the anti-poor political parties and form a government which put the commanding height of the economy and resources of the society under public ownership with democratic control and management by working people themselves. Hence, it can ensure mobilization of adequate resources to meet basic needs of the people and infrastructural provision for economic development.