By Biodun Olamosu
THE three day warning strike in Kaduna State, led by the NLC in May, demonstrated the concentrated power of the labour movement. The elemental movement of the working peoples demonstrated to Governor El-Rufai where power ultimately lies: all activities in the state were brought to a standstill.
Since then, the Governor has drawn a line in the sand, squaring up for a fight with the organised working class. His planned retrenchments have continued, workers have been queried, transferred and threatened with ‘competency tests’. Tuition fees have been increased. Daily he carries out provocation after provocation to rub the faces of workers in the dirt. His commission of inquiry aims to criminalise strikes and impose punitive measures on strikers. It is an unprecedented attack on the organized working class in general and the NLC in particular.
This cannot be allowed to continue as the honour and reputation of the NLC is being brought into question. El-Rufai’s ultimate aim is to smash and ride roughshod over workers organisations. He is being eagerly watched by the governors of other states. If el-Rufai is allowed to get away with this, then this will be the blue-print for every other governor who wishes to take away the few benefits that workers have retained.
Unassailable logic demands that el-Rufai must be resisted. The suspended strike in Kaduna must be re-ignited and provided with solidarity through an all-out national strike. The demands of Kaduna State workers should be top of the list of the national strike’s demands. But they must also include an end to price rises from removing fuel subsidy, electricity costs and raising tuition fees and other costs of public education. Last, but not least, we all need a living national minimum wage. All-out strike is the only way forward to resist el-Rufai and his colleagues in other states.
Kaduna State is one of the most dangerous states in the Federation to live, work or visit due to the frequent kidnappings, bloodshed and killings by bandits and the ethno-religious inspired violence. This level of insecurity is a direct result of the wicked, vicious and cruel anti-people measures implemented by the Kaduna State Government over the years.
Recent strikes including those by JUSUN, PASAN, ASUP and the almost three week strike led by NLC in Nasarawa State have all demonstrated that strikes are more effective if they are continued throughout negotiations. Strikes give power to the message from trade union leaders. Negotiations will be successful only if they are conducted from a position of strength.
The strength of workers is their collective action – we should not try to fight with our hands tied behind our backs. States continue to claim that there is no money to settle workers claims but the price of oil is around $75 dollars a barrel, compared to $40 expected in their budgets. Many states are also increasing their generation of internal revenue collection. They want to spend money on capital projects rather than salaries, it is no secret why they wish to do this: kickbacks of 10% or even more can be generated from capital projects but nothing from workers’ salaries.
Kaduna State Government is planning to spend on 16% of its 2021 budget on salaries compared to two thirds of the budget on capital spending. Capital spending, which is mainly spending on infrastructural projects, does not create or generate long term employment for workers. Furthermore the building of schools and hospitals without employing enough doctors, nurses and teachers is a cruel joke and an insult to the intelligence of the working people of Kaduna State.
On top of all this, Governor el-Rufai is still resolutely engaged in attacking the workforce through disengagement, retrenchment and the application of dubious testing.
Comrades, let us be resolute in our resistance to this terrible Governor. The only way to reverse the cycle of retrenchment and increased insecurity is an all-out national strike. To paraphrase the President of the Republic “let’s speak to him in the language that he understands”: that language is strike action of workers!
Socialist Labour and its members and supporters are ready to support labour in all ways necessary, including canvassing international support for strike action.
We need the NLC to use the collective power of workers! Strike to stop retrenchments! Fight for a living minimum wage!
States have plenty of money – they are just attacking the poor!
Yours in solidarity.
Olamosu is the National Secretary, Socialist Labour