The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights, Osun State hereby this medium to commend teachers in Osun State, under the umbrella of Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) for embarking on dogged struggle for the defend of their economic rights, vis-à-vis the implementation of the Teachers Salary Scale (TSS) which various state government had earlier agreed to pay but reneged. We wish to state that for teachers, who were previously characterized as conservative, to have embarked on this struggle with a determined mind clearly shows the growing workplace militancy in the country.
It will be recalled that the teachers had earlier embarked on a strong three-month strike between August and November, 2008 to press home their demand for the implementation of the 27.5 percent covered in the Teachers’ Salary Scale (TSS). Despite the availability of huge funds at the disposal of the state and federal governments, they allowed the teachers to embark on the strike and thus endanger the future of tens of thousands of Nigerian students in primary and post-primary education. Consequent upon the strength of the teachers’ struggle, Governors’ Forum agreed to the implementation of the TSS by January, 2009.
Shamefully however, many state governments, including the anti-poor Osun State government refused to respectably honour their agreement with the NUT. Thus, the teachers were forced to embark on another round of strike which was called off on Monday, 23rd March, 2009 consequent upon the agreement the state government reached with the NUT leadership to implement the TSS by June this year. This again betrays the hypocrisy of the state government about its commitment to public education. Why would a state government wait till over a month before agreeing to pay? This is not unexpected as the state government is not committed to public education which is why most public institutions in the state are in terrible conditions. Even, the so-called public officers, having seen the rot they have created in public education do not even send their children to these public schools, but rather use the state resources meant to develop public education and other social services to fund their children’s exorbitant education.
The excuse by the state government (like other state governments and federal government) that the nation’s revenue has dwindled and therefore working and poor people must suffer for this is to say the mildest, unfounded. In the first instance, it is not the workers that created the economic crisis but the ruling and capitalist class themselves, who have wasted the huge resources of the nation which should have been used to develop the country through massive, state-run industrialization and development projects. It is on record that politicians consume over N1.3 trillion as salaries and allowances aside sideline looting and diversion of public fund. Therefore, the argument of revenue depletion should not even be mentioned by the government if it has any iota of self-respect. Worse still, the politicians who are asking workers to tighten their belts have not done the same to themselves, despite all propaganda of salary cut for public officers.
However, despite these glaring realities and despite the doggedness of teachers to defend their rights, we find it odd that the state executive of the NUT could call off the strike without a tangible result. We find it funny that the state NUT leadership could call off the strike on the promise of the state government to implement the TSS by June, 2009, if the state revenue improves. We ask: why is the government not implementing it now when the same government is committing hundreds of millions of naira to politicians in power. If the argument for not paying the salary increase now is premised on revenue depletion, will the same argument not be wielded in June? The simple fact is that the government is sending the message that it is not paying. Worse still, the anti-worker state government is insisting on deducting five days from teachers’ salary for the enforcement of the No-work, No-pay policy while teachers’ February salaries have been delayed till April! We expected the state NUT to have learnt from past fake promises of the government. To have called off the strike on this false promise is a blatant error.
But the strike call off is a product of the failure of the leadership to involve the rank and file of teachers in the day-to-day activities of the strike through mass actions including mass meetings, rallies, protest marches, press campaign and public enlightenment from the local to the state level in order to, among other things: build teachers morale and confidence in the struggle; mobilize the rank and file of workers in other sections and general public for support and; to politically pressure the government to submission. However, the failure to build the struggle in this line provided ample opportunity for government to blackmail the teachers through state-wide propaganda and to even threaten them with No-work, No-pay policy. Furthermore, the failure to bring teachers together through rallies and mass meetings also isolated the teachers from the NUT leadership which prevented the development of the best strategy to confront the government’s threat as rank and file teachers were not provided the opportunity to contribute to the strike. Worse still, the failure of the national leadership of the NUT to coordinate the struggle in a coherent manner gave leadership of many state wings of the NUT to back out of the struggle without tangible result, which further isolate those state leaderships that wanted to struggle.
We believe that the state government only wants to buy time so as not to pay the TSS. By June, another excuse will be found to avoid the payment. If at all the state government will implement this pay rise, it will be as a result of another struggle (or threat of it). In fact, at this time when the economic indicators have dwindled – rising inflation an cost of living, rising exchange rate, etc, we expected the labour leadership to have kick-started a mass campaign for the implementation of the N52, 200 minimum wage being demanded by NLC. Consequently, we in CDWR, Osun State call for:
1. Rejection of the Osun State government’s promise and for the immediate implementation of the TSS, backdated to January, 2009.
2. No to obnoxious No-work, No-pay rule. Pay the teachers’ salary with TSS arrears now!
3. Immediate convocation of teachers’ congress in the state where teachers will be able to determine whether they agree with the government’s promise or not.
4. Immediate kick-starting of mass action and campaign to force governments to pay N52,2200 minimum wage by NLC, TUC and other unions.
5. Immediate convocation of the state Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO), by the NUT and NLC in the state to mobilize the forces of civil society and workers to defend the democratic, economic and social rights of workers and the oppressed.
6. Nationalization of the commanding height of the economy under the democratic control of the working and poor people themselves, in order to avoid plundering going on presently in the country.
7. Formation of a fighting mass socialist-oriented workers’ party that will champion workers’ and poor people’s aspiration for a government committed to the interests of the poor people.
Signed: Kola Ibrahim