For 48-Hour Nationwide General Strike and Mass Protests against Education Attacks and Non-Implementation of Minimum Wage
The Socialist Party of Nigeria is compelled by the fresh wave of strike actions by education workers’ unions (NUT, ASUP, SSANIP and ASUU) to call on the leadership of the NLC and TUC to mobilize for a 48-hour general strike and mass protests in rallying a mass movement of workers, students and youth to save Nigeria.
Two of the workers’ unions in polytechnics (ASUP and SSANIP) have been on a two-month long strike action without any response from the Federal Government. They are on the industrial action to over the non-implementation of agreement reached with government since 2009 and to protest the near collapse of polytechnic education. The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) since June 1 has been on a sit-at-home strike in the states where the Teachers’ Peculiar Allowance (TPA) has not been implemented. While the strike has been suspended in some states, it is still on in some others. The leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) told the press that it has been forced by the non-compliance of government to the 2009 Agreement reached with the union to embark on indefinite strike action. The central demands of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities, apart from pay increase also boil down to the need to revamp university education in Nigeria.
Also, the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) suspended a three-day warning strike it had started to protest the anti-labour policies of the oil multinationals operating in Nigeria.
The strike actions by the education workers’ unions on the parlous state of education in the country places the burden on the leadership of the two labour centres to come to the centre stage in the struggle to save education from collapse in Nigeria.
Equally, students protesting against anti-poor policies of the school management face police brutality which occasionally results in death of students as in the case of Nassarawa State University and University of Uyo.
The leadership of the labour movement must rise to initiate the united mass movement of education workers, students and youth by calling a full-blown 48-hour general strike with mass protests against attacks on education and police brutality. In calling a 48 hour general strike, the leadership of the labour movement would step up the pressure on government to meet their demands as against the grave silence it has maintained to the demands of the unions.
The SPN also calls on ASUU, SSANIP, ASUP and NUT not to limit their strike actions to sit-at-home strike but build mass actions with students fighting in solidarity in order to avoid defeat of the strike. This would require organizing mass activities like public meetings, rallies and protest marches side by side with mass circulation of leaflets to sensitize students and various sections of the working people on the demands of their strike actions and thereby mobilize their support.
The leadership of the labour movement must also stoutly resist the planned exclusion of minimum wage from the Exclusive Legislative List in the Nigerian Constitution. The entire ruling elite have continued to betray their resolve to make it extremely difficult for working and poor Nigerians to benefit anything from the huge wealth of the society. While the majority of the state governors has failed to implement the meager N18,000 minimum wage signed into law, they have decided to come up with the push to exclude the minimum wage from the Exclusive List! This will mean that each state would be at liberty to determine what it wants to pay its own workers. This is based on fraudulent argument of “true federalism” which is usually canvassed, when the interest and welfare of workers is at stake, by the state governors whose pays and allowances are not subject to the same “true federalism” but unitarily determined by a Federal Government agency.
It is however unfortunate that while the leaderships of NLC and TUC have commendably opposed this move, they have failed to sufficiently demonstrate to workers the benefit of having minimum wage under the Exclusive List. This is because despite securing a national minimum wage, which is backed with an enabling law, the labour leadership has not done anything serious, except lamentation or empty threats, to force the state governors who have not implemented the new wage to do so. Instead of organizing a general strike workers are left to hang and dry at the whims and caprices of their respective state governors. For the struggle against the planned removal of minimum wage to make meaning the labour should orgainse a general strike against non-implementation of the minimum wage.
By and large, the two-day general strike, being advocated, have to be with the clear demands on government to meet the demands of striking education workers’ unions, against police brutality, opposition to exclusion of minimum wage from the Exclusive List and implementation of the N18,000 minimum wage across the states.
However, what the waves of strikes have shown in the final analysis is the inability of the capitalist ruling elite to deploy the wealth of the society for the benefit of the working people and the society as a whole. This is why it is imperative to enthrone a working people political and economic alternative. The trade union movement has to play a crucial role in this regards with a formation of a mass working peoples party run on socialist program. But the class collaborationist character of the current trade union leadership has meant that for trade unions to achieve this historic role there must be a fighting leadership subject to democratic control of workers. As we campaign for mass workers party and workers democratically controlled, fighting trade unions, we call on workers, youths and students to join the SPN and help build it as an alternative for working people at 2015 elections.
Protem National Chairperson