The major challenges we face are poverty, inequality and the associated corruption leading to the high levels of insecurity that we all suffer.
The price of oil is now back to at least pre-Covid-19 levels and has been 100% higher than the benchmark price in the 2022 Federal budget of $62. So there is plenty of money to pay the 30,000 naira minimum wage (and to provide a further large increases), to pay pensioners, as and when due, and to adequately fund our education and health sectors. The problem is how we can force governments and other employers to provide proper wages, conditions and to adequately resource our social wage.
Negotiations with the government or other employers only ever provides marginal gains, at best. The NLC and TUC leaderships spent years talking to the Federal Government and governors. Eventually, the 30,000 naira minimum wage became law in early 2019 – three years late. A further two years later half the states had yet to fully implement this minimum wage.
The trouble is that most strikes are over the non-implementation of previous agreements with governments. Sit down and discuss what? If the government wants discussions with trade union leaders they should implement what was agreed before. Strikes should not be called off until the workers receive their bank alerts. We cannot rely on any promises from politicians who lie on a regular basis.
In contrast, active mass strikes and solidarity are the way to win our demands.
The three day strike in Kaduna in May 2021, led by the national NLC, achieved positive results because it was an active strike. The electricity supply was shut off, there were pickets and daily mass protests through the streets of Kaduna, led by the National NLC President. It was covered by all the media and it was head line news in all the major media outlets.
As a result, Governor el Rufai was terrified. Since the strike there have been no further redundancies. In addition, thousands of workers have now received their entitlements for previous redundancies – this includes 20,000 teachers of NUT made redundant in 2017. Thousands of sacked staff have similarly been recalled, all due to the active strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress.
In contrast, the nine month strike by ASUU in 2020 hardly won any significant gains and so we have another strike in 2022. The over four week strike in Cross River State, including both state and local government workers, in October/November, 2021 ended in defeat. The similar three week strike in Niger State in March 2022 did not win any significant concessions from the state. The mass of workers were not actively involved in these strikes. One of the strike alerts for Niger State merely said: “Workers are enjoined to stay at home and pray”.
The ASUU national leadership called for weekly congresses and monthly town hall meetings in all universities during their strike in 2020. Unfortunately this was not implemented in many universities and so their wonderful strike was not able to win their major demands.
ASUU members needed to reach out to students to explain their case and seek the support of their students unions and their parents. Each branch of ASUU should have reached out to local trade union branches to offer speakers to explain the reasons of the strike to their members and to have called them to discuss the reasons for the strike. They needed to call for solidarity messages, support and action from local trade unionists. ASUU members needed to have organised activities at least weekly to gain support for their strike with fliers given out in markets and other popular areas.
At the moment, the four main trades unions in the university sector (ASUU, SSANU, NAAT and NASU) are now on strike together, but this appears to be a historic accident rather than a conscious strategy. If the unions in a sector strike together they are more likely to win. They need to over-come any local disputes and join together against the common enemy.
In the health sector, there have been a range of wonderful strikes by doctors, nurses and other health workers in various states. But these need to be brought together with a national strike by JOHESU and the doctors. JOHESU organised ‘warning strikes’, but have yet to organise the necessary indefinite strike action.
We need to ensure that all strikes actively involve the full membership of the relevant trade union. Mass pickets are needed to ensure that compliance with the strike is 100%. Regular mass protests and town hall meetings need to be held to explain the strike and gain support. Delegations should be sent out to other work places and trade unions to seek for support and solidarity
We need trade union branches to send solidarity messages to other trade unions who are on strike. We need to develop a tradition of trade union branches supporting other trade unions, especially when they are on strike. A victory for one is a victory for all! United we win, divided we fall!!
Solidarity Wins Strikes,so we believe the following:
- Strikes rather than talks are the way for trade unionists to win
- Strikes need the active support of all workers to win
- Strikes need to involve all workers in a sector to win
- Strikes need active calls for solidarity from other workers to win
- Trade unions branches need to support all strikes and organise solidarity
- NLC and TUC need to call mass active general strikes to win a proper minimum wage, payment of pensions and stop fuel and electricity price increases.