Inspiring Mass Actions of Sacked OAUTHC Workers
Report of Protest and Picketing by Sacked Staff of Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex (OAUTHC)
By Kola Ibrahim
Following issuance of sack letters to over 1,500 staff of Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex (OAUTHC) Ile Ife by the management of the hospital, through the directive of the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the affected workers started protest on Monday January 29. They have held protests across the town and have been picketing the hospital gate since then, effectively shutting down the hospital. Tents have been set up at the gate with some workers sleeping permanently at the picket line.
There is also a widespread support from the community. For instance, the food and other facilities used for the picketing were donated by community people. In addition, some staff of hospital also come around to show solidarity to the protesting workers. At a point, two members of the State House of Assembly, representing Ife zone, and the Speaker of the assembly came around, under pressure to identify with the protesters. Unfortunately, the in-house trade unions such as NASU, NANNM, MHWUN and senior staff union, have refused to show any concern or solidarity with the affected workers. They reportedly claimed that the sacked workers were not their members as at the time of their sack.
It will be recalled that the management and the federal government have been making move to sack hundreds of workers in the last two months, claiming they were employed outside the limited waiver granted the institution for employment. These workers had worked for over a year without a pay, having been employed since December 2022, after undertaking official employment processes. According to some workers (not sacked) who came around to show solidarity to the sacked workers and we spoke with, the employment of the workers in 2022 was a huge relief for them from excessive workload. A security staff told us that since the sack of the workers, he has been working on both morning and night shifts continuously for the past seven (7) days.
More than this, the workers are being punished for the crime they did not commit. As noted by one staff, it is absurd that the same hospital management and the federal government that employed the workers are condemning the same employment while punishing the workers for same. The sack is also l having a ripple effect socially in the town, as the impact of sack of over 1,500 is bound to affect many families.
Members of DSM, Osun State intervened in the picketing with leaflets, and held discussions with some of the affected staff. We also had discussion with the leadership of the protest and suggested some strategies to improve the movement including more media action, protest to the House Assembly and government secretariat, production of leaflets and banner. The protesters only have some makeshift placards along the Ife-Ilesa road. However, the picket, which is along the busy Ife-Ilesa road has been drawing attention. Serious leafleting will further popularise the struggle.
The picket continues. However, the success or otherwise of the protest would be determined by the resilience and tactics of the protesters, as well as national support, especially from trade unions. Given that the crippling effect of the picket on health services and revenue will increase daily, it is logical to expect that the government will try to break the pickets at one point or the other. However, concerted national campaign can win the struggle in record time. Therefore, we call on trade unions including the in-house unions such as NASU, NANNM, MHWUN, JOHESU, SSATHURAI, the trade union centres (NLC and TUC) and other trade unions, to show solidarity with the affected workers.