WORKERS IN A WAVE OF STRIKES IN OYO STATE
NLC and TUC Must Intervene Now for Proper Coordination of the Struggle and with Solidarity Action
It is an astounding paradox that workers’ strikes and agitations have begun to rise from one government establishment in Oyo State to another in the recent time, despite the Engr Seyi Makinde-led government’s claim on its priority for workers’ welfare across the state. The development started few months ago and it has been spreading like a wildfire following the 14- day ultimatum issued on June 11, 2020, by the Association of Resident Doctors at Ladoke Akintola University Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso, with a threat to down tools should the management of the Hospital and the state government fail to respond to their list of demands.
By Ayodeji Adigun
These included: payment of two years arrears of half salaries from January 2016 to December 2017 which were owed by the discredited Ajimobi/APC administration in Oyo State; procurement, installation, repair and maintenance of sophisticated medical equipment needed to carry out their health care services efficiently within the hospital, employment of more health workers in order to stop over labouring the available ones, improvement in the salary scale to reflect the new minimum wage with its arrears from January 2020.
In the same vein, workers in the Polytechnic of Ibadan which include both the academic and non-academic staff, embarked on an indefinite strike on the Monday, 11th January 2021 to protest against the continued failure of the Engr Seyi Makinde-led government in the state to commence the implementation of the new minimum wage of N30,000 for workers in the institution which is more than a year now that it was signed into law by the Buhari-led federal government and protesting against the overreaching and unlawful activities of the consultant imposed on the institution by the state government.
The wave of strikes rocking the Oyo State-owned tertiary institutions got deeper on the 4th February 2021 when workers who are organised under the Non-Academic Staff Union at Emmanuel Alayande College of Education (EACOED) Oyo embarked on a 7-day warning strike. These workers are protesting against non-payment of 9 years promotion arrears, non-payment of annual increment, non-inclusion of non-teaching staff in the composition of the governing council, withdrawal of the already issued 2018 promotion letters to qualified recipients, among other issues.
Also, the activities of the State Water Corporation were also grounded for a few days following a strike declared on Thursday, 28th January 2021, by the state leadership of Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPTRE), the union under which the water corporation workers are organised. This is after the expiration of a 72-hour ultimatum given to the state government to attend to a number of issues which include: non-remittance of deduction made from workers’ salary by Engr Seyi Makinde-led government, lack of chemicals required for the use of the Corporation’s workers in carrying out their duties effectively and failure to increase the subvention to the Corporation in order to accommodate the implementation of the new minimum wage of N30,000 for its staff, among others. Though, the said strike has been suspended with a condition that government should meet all of their demands within two weeks, the chances are high that the government will fail to meet these demands within the stipulated timeframe. Should this happen, the workers had vowed to resume the suspended strike immediately without any notice and this is likely to have a ripple effect across the State as workers in other government establishments like Judiciary who have also been denied the benefit of the new minimum wage of N30,000 could be encouraged to embark on strike to advance their demands.
Likewise, workers in all tertiary institutions in the state may also go strike. According to media reports, the salary received by workers in the tertiary institutions across the state for the month of January did not reflect the agreement recently signed between the state government and the leadership of the Joint Action Committee, (JAC) of all unions in some of these State-owned tertiary institutions
By and large, it is important to state that this wave of workers strikes has clearly shown that all of the noise and propaganda often peddled on both the social and mainstream media outlets around the payment of salaries and pension by the Engr Seyi Makinde-led government is a mere ruse and a ploy to give a false impression that the regime is pro-workers which satisfies the welfare of workers in the State.
This is not to say that the regime has not been paying salaries and pension promptly as often claimed, but to stress that the so-called regular payment of workers’ salary and the pension has been exposed by the growing waves of strikes across the state to be too little, insufficient and tokenistic to address the welfare demands of workers in the State. In fact, there has been a growing fear of whether or not the payment of both the salary and pension is sustainable in the coming period given the speculations that the so-called payment of salary and pension is allegedly driven by the heaps of debts the regime has incurred for the State since it’s inauguration.
Going by this background, there is an urgent need for the intervention of the State leaderships of the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) with a view to forging a united front for all of these pockets of workers agitations and strikes so as to ensure that the struggles are coordinated and well-directed to achieve victory.
We therefore call on the NLC and TUC to organize a 24 hour statewide solidarity strike and hold a mass demonstration in Ibadan as the next steps in support of the demands of the affected workers and in defence of the overall interest of mass workers in the state. A significant feature of the recent wave of strikes is that many have been initiated from below. This development provides the basis for a revitalization of the trade unions and the creation of militant unionism throughout the state.
Beyond this is also to note that, it is necessary that the mass of workers in the state draw the conclusion from their experience that satisfying the overall economic interest and the desire of the working people whether in Oyo State or elsewhere is not a task that will be undertaken by any government formed and run on the basis of capitalist policies like public-private partnership (PPP) and contract system no matter how much it tries to pretend to be people and workers’ friendly.
The truth is that, only a government formed by the workers and poor run on the basis of a socialist programme can satisfy the overall economic and political interest of the mass of the working people. Therefore, to enthrone this kind of government will require the workers, youths and the poor people of Oyo State to join and help build a radical and socialist-oriented political party like the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) towards an enthronement of such a government.