THE outrageous payment of less than 50% of their October salary to ASUU members and the retention of salaries of some non-teaching staff is an attack on us all. This is the largest group of trade unionists to suffer the implementation of the federal government’s no work no pay policy. As such, this is one of the most significant attacks on our labour movement, at least since the end of the military era.
ASUU members were on strike from 14th February of this year and suspended their industrial action on 13th October 2022. During this period members of the Union were not paid their wages. They were last paid at the end of February. The return to work was based on an undertaking that the lecturers would be paid their salaries for the duration of the strike in two tranches. One was to be made immediately and the other half paid by the end of the year. Unfortunately, this undertaking was not implemented, like so many of the previous agreements with the Government.
Members of ASUU at Unijos have shown the way forward. Last Thursday, the day after the lecturers had received their half salary, an emergency ASUU Congress was called. The Congress resolved to stay at home, until the backlog of the withheld salaries are paid.
To ensure that the salaries for the duration of the eight-month strike are paid we need ASUU branches to follow the action from Unijos and to feed their views into the ASUU NEC meeting that is planned to be held on Monday. To push back this attack will require resolute action by ASUU and the support of the whole of the labour movement. To be successful, this will require all ASUU branches to reach out to their students, the other education trade unions and the wider labour movement. This will need delegations of ASUU members to discuss the significance of this attack and the organisation of town hall meetings in all universities.
The wonderful protests the NLC delivered in every state capital in solidarity with the ASUU strike at the end of July provided an important boost for the strike. The NLC protests were a fantastic achievement which Socialist Labour recognised at the time, see: https://tinyurl.com/3vt9jzp4.
However, the NLC also promised to organise a three-day warning strike if the government did not implement its agreements with the tertiary education trade unions within two weeks of their protests. The NLC also threatened to organise an indefinite general strike to force the government to fund education properly.
Unfortunately, the NLC is yet to fulfil its promise of strike action.
We recognise that the fact that NLC affiliates with chapters in the universities that suspended their earlier strike may be a factor. We therefore call on all the university-based unions to unite, and appeal to the entire labour movement, including NLC and TUC for solidarity action. All the university-based unions face common deprivation of non-payment of salary from their strikes, among other shared demands. We have to re-build trade union unity across the sector as part of the process of addressing this massive attack. We need unity to secure our combined victory.
It is vital that the whole labour movement is successful in pushing back this major assault. This will require all trade union members to take action. We can all talk to university lecturers, other education workers, students and trade union officials. We need to try and ensure that our trade union branches send letters of support to ASUU nationally and at our local universities. We also need to encourage all local trade union branches to send letters and motions to their state and national trade unions demanding action to address this attack. We also need calls for resolute national action to be sent to the NLC and the TUC in our states and at the national level.
An attack on one is an attack on us all! With unity in action and solidarity we will win!
Oke writes from Socialist Labour