PUBLIC primary schools in Enugu State have been grounded since Monday following the indefinite strike embarked upon by teachers over the non-payment of N30,000 minimum wage by the state government.
The Enugu State Wing Executive Council (SWEC) of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) had announced the strike after its meeting on April 6, 2022 when it directed that primary school teachers in the state should not resume for the 3rd term of the 2021/22 academic session with effect from May 9 until the N30,000 national minimum wage is paid to their members.
Primary school pupils who were not aware of the development went to schools but returned home when teachers were absent from their duty posts in various public primary schools.
The teachers, National Record gathered, had gone on a three-day warning strike in January to force the state government to pay them the new minimum wage. The state chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), in solidarity with the teachers, had joined the warning strike.
Rather than negotiate with the workers, the government instead sued the leadership of the union at the National Industrial Court (NIC) sitting in Enugu. In the originating summons with number NICN/EN/01/2022 against the state chapter of the NUT led by Comrade Theophilus Odo, the state government prayed the court to bar the teachers from embarking on any strike on the ground that they were essential workers.
The government, however, lost the suit, as the NIC ruled that the teachers could go on strike as they were not “essential duty workers,” as alleged by the government. In dismissing the suit, the NIC accused the state government of discriminating against primary school teachers.
The NIC, presided over by Justice Oluwakayode Arowosegbe, had in an interlocutory injunction, restrained the teachers from embarking on any form of industrial action pending the determination of the substantive suit and ordered an accelerated hearing.
Justice Arowosegbe also ordered the state government to go back and negotiate with the teachers, describing it as discriminatory for the government to pay some workers in the state the minimum wage, from February 2020, while refusing to pay the teachers same.
He also held that the state could not stop the teachers from ventilating their grievances through industrial action.
“The court, in its judgement delivered on Tuesday, March 8, 2022, held that the Primary School teachers in Enugu State do not fall within the categories of workers who provide essential services, hence they can embark on strike and other lawful means to press home their demands.”