Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

Workers in OAU hold joint rally over local demands

Workers in OAU hold joint rally over local demands

ERC calls on ASUU not to limit its national strike to “stay at home”

By Awo Taiwo

The teaching staffs and students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, held a joint rally on Wednesday July 1 with about 2,000 members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), National Association of Academic Technologists Staff (NAATS), the Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the Students Union in attendance.

Besides the ongoing national strike of ASUU, the teachers and non-academic staffs of the university have, for the past 6 months, been at logger-heads with the university management over illegal deductiosn in their contribute pensions as well for better pay. The non-academic staff unions had just returned to work on Monday June 29 after a week long warning strike over the same demand.

Instead of deducting 7.5% as required by the contributory pension scheme, the university management is fraudulently deducting 15% from the salaries of workers. According to the workers about N400million has been deducted from their salaries illegally as pension.

The rally that was held at the Sport Centre of the university also agreed to a 7-day strike by all staff unions starting from Monday July 6. The staff unions are expected to mobilize their members for rally and protest march to the administrative building of the university to demand immediate refund of the “stolen” money.

The staff unions had arrived at the decision to hold the joint rally at the symposium organized by the university chapter of ASUU the previous day (June 30) in line with the directive of its National Executive Committee.

ASUU Symposium

The symposium was attended by students and staffs, both the teaching and non-teaching staffs, with about 60 in attendance. The turnout of students was low at both the symposium and rally as the majority of students have gone home as a result of the closure of campus by the management base on the strike action of the staff unions on campus.

The OAU’s Parents’ Forum, SSANU (senior non-academic staff union), and the Students’ Union were represented at the programme.

The symposium started with an opening remark from the ASUU OAU branch Chairman Dr. Ife Adewumi, while Prof. Idowu Awopetu (who is a member of ASUU negotiating team that discussed the agreement with the Onosode FG negotiating team) gave the detail and historical analysis of the crisis between the ASUU and the Federal government.

Taiwo Hassan Soweto was also invited as a speaker to represent the Education Rights Campaign (ERC). While speaking he pointed out the necessity of ASUU organizing public rallies, picketing, as well as production of leaflets in order to sensitize the general public on the demands of ASUU and thereby making strike a mass based action strike the usual sit-at-home. He also made proposal that all the staff unions in the education sector should come together under one platform to fight the battle. As also contained in the ERC leaflet circulated at the event, Soweto openly canvassed for unity of workers and students in the struggle to save education and cited example of France and Greece last year and Germany this year June 17 when over 250, 000 students and teachers protested jointly.

The ASUU leadership openly derided the option of a mass protest to further drive home the demands of the strike. The ASUU chairman said openly that lecturers cannot picket as some people are calling for. This is no surprise giving the petty bourgeois attitude of ASUU members.

But events can always determine whether this hatred for protest is sustainable or not.  As some contributors posed the question out at the symposium, how will ASUU sustain the strike if government starts “No work, No pay”. It is possible that under the impact of big events later, ASUU may be forced consider some elements of mass action or risk being forced back to class.

However, the joint rally held on Wednesday and protest march of workers slated for next Monday is a step in right direction. This united action and active protest, if sustained, should be able to force the management to yield to the local demands of the education workers. It is the same approach we have called on the staff unions to adopt in their various demands for improved pay and working conditions, and adequate funding of education.

We of the ERC have resolved to mobilize mass support for the strike and its demands through a press campaign and other means. We have started discussion with various students’ union bodies for joint work in this regards.

At the symposium and rally, some copies of Socialist Democracy and ERC 2009 Perspective were sold, and ERC leaflets specifically produced for the strike were circulated.