NLC, TUC, and affiliate Unions Should Mobilize for Strike and Mass Action
Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), Osun State Chapter strongly decries the refusal of the Rauf Aregbesola-led Osun State government to pay salaries of workers for over five months. We also condemn non-payment of pension arrears and monthly pension to retirees in the state. We consider it callous and irresponsible the denial of workers of their salaries and entitlement, using very fraudulent excuse. We call on the leadership of labour movement in the state including Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) to take drastic and practical actions to defend the right of workers. We call for immediate declaration of industrial actions including strikes, pickets, mass rallies and protests, to demand for payment of workers’ salaries and pensions.
It is highly treacherous and shameful of the Aregbesola government to claim there is no money to pay workers for over 90 days, yet the same government has millions to spend on campaign jamboree. The same government that claimed there is no money to pay workers and pensioners spent several millions of naira on frivolous referendum on new local council creation, even when legitimate elections into the local government administrations have not been held for over four years. We ask; where is the N30 billion the government claimed to have saved some time ago. Is the government claiming it is not getting any federal allocation or what? It is shameful that more than four years of the much-touted economic prudency the government still relies on dole out from Abuja to survive. Even at this, the government cannot meet its basic obligations and duties, one of which is payment of workers’ salaries and retirees’ pensions.
Just recently, teachers in the state’s public schools embarked on a month-long strike to demand for provision of running grants to public schools for procurement of basic instructional materials like chalk! Currently, lecturers in the four state owned Polytechnics and Colleges of Education under the umbrella of Council of Academic Staff Unions of Osun Tertiary Institutions (CASUOSTI) are on two-day per week industrial strike over backlog of allowances and salaries. Workers in the state-owned university, Osun State University (UNIOSUN) are at loggerhead with the state government over poor funding of the institution. Workers in the state radio and television stations just called off their strike some few weeks ago, over failure of government to pay their backlogs of arrears. Medical workers in the state employment, including doctors, have not been paid for over three months, thus threatening the already fragile and chronically-underfunded health system in the state. as we are writing this statement, medical workers in Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH) Teaching Hospital, Osogbo, the only state-owned tertiary health institution, and the State Hospital, Asubiaro are now on industrial strike. Worse still, none of these issues have been addressed or resolved by the government!
This clearly corroborates the position of the SPN that the Aregbesola government has bankrupted the state finance, no thanks to its pro-capitalist, pro-big business policies. It is clear that the state government has mortgaged the finance of the state to big time contractors, politicians and financial sharks. Currently, the state is virtually at a standstill in terms of governance. Various projects, including the few road projects and school rehabilitations have been abandoned despite billions of naira of loan procured for them. Public institutions like schools and hospitals are in deplorable state. Is it then accidental that Osun State came distant twenty-second (22nd) in the 20014 WAEC SSCE rating. Clearly, the Osun State government is short-sighted in its approach to finances of the state. The government is only interested in projects and activities that will put public funds into private businesses of politicians and their big business partners, as seen in the School Uniform Fraud, where government gave almost one billion naira of public fund to private firm to solely produce and sell school uniforms, albeit of low quality, to pupils and students in the state.
While we agree that, as a result of the neo-colonial and rent-seeking character of Nigeria’s ruling politicians, both in the PDP and APC, the revenue of the country has greatly reduced due to fall in crude oil price in the international market, we make bold to say this has only shown the bankrupt nature of Aregbesola government, rather than absolving it of blame in the economic woes that has betide the state, nay the country. We challenge Aregbesola government to come out with the financial report of the state vis-à-vis the revenue of the state, the federal allocation, and expenditure of the state, and it will be glaring how public resources are being used to satiate the lifestyles of politicians and their big business acolytes.
We call on workers not to be hoodwinked by the bogey of poor allocation or financial victimization of the state by the federal government, as being bandied by the government and its town-criers. Workers and pensioners must demand for their right to adequate and timely remuneration. Leadership of labour unions should be proactive in the defence of their members’ interests. The various individual industrialactions taken by some unions in the last four to five months, while commendable, shows there is need for a holistic mass action of workers across the state. We call on labour leaders in the state, especially NLC, TUC, and the affiliate unions, to declare a 48-hour warning strike with mass rallies and protests across the state to demand immediate payment of workers’ salary arrears, and accumulated pensions and gratuities. An immediate congress of workers in the state should be the first step in this direction. We call on workers in each union to put pressure on their leadership to take industrial and mass actions on the issue immediately.