…owed 10 months salaries, lost 3 members to hunger
Sam Oluwalana, Ibadan
Staffers of all the tertiary institutions owned by the Oyo state government on Friday commenced an indefinite strike action with protests in various parts of the state.
The protest held in Ibadan, Oyo, Saki, Igboora, Eruwa and Lanlate simultaneously.
The affected schools are Oyo State College of Agriculture and Technology (OYSCATECH); The Ibarapa Polytechnic, Eruwa and The Polytechnic Ibadan. Others are The Oke-Ogun Polytechnic, Saki; The College of Education, Lanlate and Emmanuel Alayande College of Education (EACOED), Oyo.
The workers who initially gave a 14-day ultimatum to the government said they were embarking on the strike over what they described as slashing of their salaries by 25 percent and the 13 to 15 months salary arrears across the various institutions.
But the government denied owing the workers 13 or 15 months salary as claimed by the workers, noting that there was no month that government didn’t release money to the institutions.
At the protest monitored in Oyo, the workers who were seen wearing black outfit said it is to show to the world that their plight is not only pitiable but also mournful, accusing the state government of deliberately treating them as animals.
The workers who were close to one thousand arched from Isokun to Owode junction singing solidarity songs and shouting their predicament in the hands of the state government.
Vehicular movement enroute the Oyo road to Owode axis were held to a standstill, as trucks, many travelers and commuters were hindered through the obstruction of free flow of traffic.
The staff unions involved in the protests include, the College of Education Academic Staff Union (COESU), Non Academic Staff Union and the Senior Staff Union of Colleges of Education in Nigeria.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards displayed by the protesting workers of the Emmanuel Alayande College of Education (EACOED), Oyo reads: “No pay no work”, “13 months without salary, please bring my money joor”, “Ajimobi don’t you collect salary? Food for thought”, “Pay us our 13 months salary arrears”, “Ajimobi, you have sinned against humanity”, “Please pay me o, hunger wan kill me o” and Future at stake when salary not paid”.
Others read, “Our children are out of school, pay our salary”, “Fractional salary is illegal, say no to 25 percent salary cut”, “One quarter salary equals one month salary”, “Our 100 percent salary, our right”, “Ajimobi, do you take 25 percent salary cut”, “We are dying of hunger, pay us our salary”, “No money was paid to us from bailout”, “our salary is our livewire, pay our salary”, “Existing colleges are dying! Gov. Ajimobi why technical university?”
Chairman Academic Staff Union, EACOED, Oyo, Comrade Segun Oyewunmi said the workers had given the government enough windows for dialogue but that the government did not take advantage. He added that although, the workers are open to dialogue, it would not take less than 10 months of the salary arrears before going back to work.
He said: “We are always ready for dialogue, we opened the doors of dialogue for the past 12 months but the government has not appreciated it and now that we are about to down tools that is when we were invited and of course we will continue to dialogue, we will always open our doors for dialogue.
“We are all wearing black attire showing that our situation is not only pitiable but mournful. This protest is a signal to the government that our outstanding salaries be paid immediately so that our people can have succor so that our people can gladly pay those people we are indebted to. We want the government to start paying 100 percent of salaries of which we are rendering to the government 100 percent services”
Comrade Olusegun Adeniji, Chairman, Senior Staff Unions in Colleges of Education in Nigeria, EACOED chapter, said “we have made several appeals, visited the House of Assembly, written to the governor and did every other thing within our power to keep ourselves as law-abiding workers but we are being treated like animals. You don’t just reduce peoples pay without negotiating with the workers or anything and that is our problem.
“What we are demanding for is the restoration of our 100 percent salary and payment of about 13 months arrears that is already on the ground. That is our request, we are not fighting the government.”
Chairman, Joint Action Committee of Trade Unions in all Oyo tertiary institutions, Comrade Adeniyi Azeez, stated that the indefinite strike was inevitable since all avenues explored were to no avail.
Azeez, who spoke in Igboora, said that the strike action embarked upon was to actualize the payment of the 15 months salary arrears and the restoration of 100 percent salary payment.
“The last time we received full salary was December 2015. Since January 2016, we have been receiving 25 percent salary which we do call subvention. The state government had since January 2016 reduced subvention to the institutions to 25 percent, which also reduced the salary to 25 percent.”
He stated that they have lost several of their colleagues due to their inability to manage their health.
Azeez said that they lost Dr Kabir Bello, Mr Abiodun Oke and Alhaja Sakirat Gbadegesin to the crisis, adding that Mrs. Motunrayo Shofolahan attempted suicide two days back.
He lamented that in the last six years of the Ajimobi-led administration, OYSCATECH has not received any fund for infrastructural development.
ASUP Chairman, Ibarapa Polytechnic, Eruwa, Comrade Segun Aderounmu maintained that the workers would not return to work until government pays their 15months salary arrears and 100 percent subvention to the institution.
“It is unfortunate that our members cannot feed, manage their health and pay school fees of their wards. Internally Generated Revenue of the institution cannot be used finance the institutions. We have told the government about this. We are ready for negotiation with the government in as much are considerate parents but we are bent on the restoration of 100% salary payment”, he said.
However, Commissioner for Education, Science, and Technology in the state, Prof. Adeniyi Olowofela said the government will do all that is needful for the issue to be resolved as soon as possible.
He said: “There is no problem that does exist on earth that does not have solution, I have met with the unions before and as we are meeting with the heads of the tertiary institutions, we are also meeting with the NLC, we know that we will get to an amicable resolution of this imbroglio.
“The strike will be called off as soon as we resolve the problems. It is always give and take, we will do some and they too will have to agree with us on some. The truth is that there is no month that we don’t give them money, and the claim that we are owing 13 or 14 months salary is not true but then if you lack the capacity to meet your obligations, the government will now look at possibilities of how to help you augment it.”