Nigeria: Teachers all-out strike for a living wage

Actively mobilise trades unions, workers, parents and students to aid teachers’ action

The following text is from a leaflet issued by the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI in Nigeria) on 2 July in support of an all-out national strike called by the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) on 30 June. The NUT is demanding the implementation of a wage agreement originally agreed 17 years ago.

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Teachers all-out strike for a living wage

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) fully supports on the on-going strike embarked upon by the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) and calls for the immediate implementation of the Teachers Salary Structure by both the federal government and state governments.

We call on Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) and their affiliates to commence solidarity actions in support of the strike. We hold strongly that this kind of struggle deserves concrete practical intervention of the central labour leadership, beyond mere verbal support.

It is a fact that the ongoing struggle is ultimately a struggle for better educational system and therefore a struggle for all working class people.

Labour and pro-masses’ organisations should specifically support the industrial action with picketing, rallies, press statements, solidarity strikes, etc, so as to ensure that the goals are met by both the federal and state governments.

While workers that toil endlessly earn very meagre wages that could barely cater for their basic necessities, several billions of naira is stolen by politicians and government officials who also inflate contracts to enrich themselves. Recently, the National Assembly passed jumbo salaries and allowances for themselves and certain top functionaries of the state. For instance, the annual salaries and allowances of the just 469 members of the National Assembly (both Senate and House of Reps.) have been increased from N41billion to N60billion (US$ 350million to 513million). Of course, this jumbo pay does not include patronage received in form of grafts and over inflated public contracts. In sharp contrast, the TSS which, at best, will bring minimal comfort to millions of teachers, is being trivialised by government at the expense of the teeming millions that patronise public education.

Notwithstanding the stupendous resources being controlled by the Nigerian state, basic infrastructures remain obsolete or non-existent. The TSS, if implemented, is one way to channel some of the huge resources that are daily being wasted on the greed and vanities of politicians to education while public funded quality education remain a mirage. It is the duty of any good government to ensure improved living and working conditions of citizens. As such, we call for massive funding of the educational sector to arrest the colossal rot and decay inherent within. Infrastructures must be upgraded and the welfare and working conditions of teachers must be improved to meet the present rate of inflation if pupils/students are expected to acquire meaningful and qualitative education. The DSM demands unconditional implementation of the TSS as a step towards this direction.

More action needed

While the resoluteness of NUT leadership on the struggle so far is commendable, the fact that TSS is a product of an agreement reached with the government, as far back as 1991, calls for more awareness and mobilisation actions to be organised by the teachers’ union. Already, the response by governments at different levels clearly shows that achieving the current aim of the struggle will not be a tea party affair.

The PDP controlled central government says it does not wish to impose new wage structures on the federal states on their part; but the so-called opposition parties, governors like Babatunde Fashola, of the AC in Lagos State, and governors of the ANPP controlled states, unfortunately, share the view of the Yar’Adua government in this bizarre implementation of so-called true federalism. We, therefore, urge the striking teachers to evolve concrete actions that will ensure that other trades unions, workers, parents, students and pro-people organisations are actively mobilised to participate in the ongoing strike not just as sympathisers but as working class parents and guardians who certainly want good education for their children.

Specifically, the NUT leadership in conjunction with the NLC, TUC, LASCO, DSM, UAD, etc should immediately put in place programme for a DAY or DAYS of Solidarity Actions, that will include rallies, public programmes/symposiums and mass protests by all layers of the working masses and the long cheated poor strata in order to force these self-serving ruling elites to yield to the demands of the education workers.

The struggle of teachers for improved pay and working condition should be used by NUT, NLC, TUC and industrial unions as the launching pad for ‘a living wage’ as the new minimum wage for all workers to replace the existing poverty wage of N7,500 / N5,500 (US$ 64/47) and also to back this up with concrete programme of mass mobilisation of the entire work force and the youths as the surest way to achieve this aim.

The insensitivity of governments at central and across states to the demands of teachers, as in the case of other industrial unions, in spite of huge financial resources at their best disposal is typical of anti-poor capitalist governments. This is one of the reasons we of the DSM have been calling on leadership of labour and pro-masses’ organisations to mobilise workers and poor masses for the building of a truly fighting working peoples’ party that is genuinely prepared to organise mass, revolutionary struggles to wrest power from the thieving ruling elite. Such a party will struggle to put in place a workers and poor peoples’ government that will put under public ownership all the commanding heights of the economy with democratic management and control of the working peoples themselves. This is to guarantee the commitment of public resources to provision of infrastructure for socio-economic development and basic needs like education, healthcare, housing, decent jobs, etc for workers and poor masses.

We urge comrades and all genuine labour activists to take concrete steps to ensure that this message gets to teachers in their various schools and also working class parents and youths in the communities.

We say:

  • Both Federal and State Governments Must Immediately Implement TSS
  • NLC, TUC, LASCO Must Organise Solidarity Day of Mass Action in Support of NUT and also for a Living Wage for All Categories of Workers