Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM




Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) Osun State Chapter, Press Statement:

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Osun State Chapter, condemns in absolute terms the bureaucratic suspension action slammed against Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) branch of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Union (SSANU) by the national leadership of the union. This suspension of a branch currently engaged in serious industrial dispute with the university authorities is definitely ill motivated and meant to expose the workers and their leaders to direct attacks from the authorities. The OAU branch of the union has been engaging the Prof. Tale Omole-led management on welfare issues of its members vis-Å•-vis immediate implementation of the parity policy of government, and end to double deduction of pension contribution by the management.

A few years ago, the federal government had approved the abrogation of disparity in basic salary of university workers on the same grade level and qualification. Although, allowances pertaining to specific nature of job may differ but basic salary at the point of entry was expected to be the same. Unfortunately, the OAU authorities, despite including the payment of the parity in its budget, refused to pay workers. Also, the university management has been engaging in deduction of pension contribution from workers’ salaries, even after the federal government has deducted same from source. These are parts of the basic demands of workers. Unfortunately, despite seeking peaceful resolution of the issues, the shameful maneuvering and deceit by the university authorities forced the workers to declare an industrial dispute. Based on the highly bureaucratic manner of running the union, in the SSANU (and indeed many industrial unions) workers are required to get approval of the National Executive Council of the union before calling a strike, even when its members have taken the democratic decision locally, or when they are under serious attack from the authorities. In this case, the national leadership of the union disapproved of a strike action by workers; while it did not take any step to help workers win their demands.

Workers therefore resorted to having daily congresses to discuss the issue and put more pressure on the university authorities. Rather than the national leadership showing understanding by visiting the branch and relating with workers, who stood solidly behind their local leadership, the national leaders preferred handing down an order to the local leaders of the union to call off any industrial dispute. At a point, the national leadership issued a query to the branch leadership to explain why it continued with industrial dispute i.e. the congresses. Clearly, the national leadership found it more comfortable responding to complaints from the university authorities than supporting its own members. In a blatant show of crude compromise, the national leadership, through its vice president, signed a joint statement with National Universities Commission (NUC) and Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU), disclaiming the workers’ congresses. It was clearly glaring that the national leadership wanted to serve as a brake for the impending struggle. It was also glaring that what the OAU workers are fighting for affect other SSANU members in other institutions; and victory for OAU workers would have ignited similar struggle in other institutions. Hence, the desperate attempt of the club of vice chancellors and the NUC to intercede. Unfortunately, they find ready tool in the national leadership of the workers’ union.

Despite the dubiousness of the national leadership of SSANU, workers in the OAU branch complied with the directive and suspended the congresses. However, the national leadership, sensing the readiness of the workers not to take any rotten compromise, still went ahead to suspend the branch and dissolved its democratically elected leadership. The suspension was premised on a ridiculous excuse that the branch was organizing congresses during working hours, which to the national leadership is tantamount to a strike, and a violation of its No-Strike order to the branch! Indeed, the manner in which the national leadership took the decision clearly shows that it was carrying out a hatchet man job for the university authorities. By these actions (suspension of the branch and dissolution of its leadership), the SSANU leadership is exposing workers to direct attack from the authorities. Nothing emphasize this than the appeal of the SSANU leadership to the OAU authorities and its security unit to ensure implementation of the suspension order! True to type, the OAU authorities have started attacks on workers, having being given a clear field by the SSANU national leadership. Immediately after the suspension of OAU branch, the OAU management transferred the local chair of SSANU to one of its agencies in Ibadan in order to behead the struggle. Definitely, if not stopped, further attacks will be launched on other workers.

We in the DSM reject this crudely bureaucratic method of running a workers’ union. While we agree to an organized and national action and solidarity among workers, we are totally opposed to a bureaucratic policy that prevents workers at local levels, from taking up their different bosses on issues pertaining to their welfare. In fact, we support the right of workers to not only defend their welfare rights but also to contribute to collective struggles of workers at local, state and national levels; if it is democratically decided by them. This does not prevent the national body from playing any role in local struggles, but this must be done with the aim of advancing the interests of its members and not exposing them to further attacks as the SSANU national leadership is current doing.

While we do not support any section of workers breaking their union rules, we are opposed to rules that tie the hands of workers from taking up their local exploiting bosses. Moreover, the OAU branch has not broken any basic rule of unionism. The allegation leveled against the branch by the national leadership over calling congress during working hour is unfortunate. This is the same argument the university authorities are using to criminalize workers’ congress. It is known fact that workers call congresses during working hours by taking time out of their work. More than this, it is clear that the national leadership is more interested in preventing workers from taking any action than resolving the issue on their behalf. Otherwise, how can the suspension of the branch and dissolution of its leadership give any concession to workers?

What workers in OAU faced from its national leadership is a reflection of the neck-deep bureaucracy in workers’ movement, which is now choking the flowering of mass movement of workers against the capitalist class. This bureaucratic method has prevented workers from advancing their own revolutionary political agenda and party, to force the capitalist class out of power. We therefore enjoin workers at all levels to start the process of taking back their union from bureaucrats and labour aristocrats. We need unions to be under the revolutionary control of rank-and-file workers with decisions taken democratically from local level to national level.

We in DSM demand immediate reversal of the draconian and anti-union action of the SSANU national leadership, and for the immediate restoration of the branch and its leadership. We also demand that the national leadership should be compelled to support the struggle of its branch in OAU and not serve as a prison warder of the authorities against workers. We appeal to all unions, including other local branches of SSANU to reject this obnoxious, anti-democratic action of the national leadership of SSANU. We vehemently reject any planned attack on workers and their leaders by the OAU authorities, as we call for the immediate reversal of the obnoxious transfer of the OAU SSANU chair to Ibadan.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) must intervene in this matter. Incidentally, the General Secretary of the union, Promise Adewusi is a deputy president of NLC and has been acting as the President of the Congress in the past two weeks.

We call on socialists and pro-labour activists, nationally and internationally, to join in the condemnation of this sacrilege committed by the national leadership of SSANU. We call for solidarity actions in support of these education workers who have been sold out by their national leadership. This should include protest letter to the union leadership. Please send mail to [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected], and copy [email protected]

Kola Ibrahim

DSM Osun State Secretary