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workers at OAU Ife, celebrating hard won victory

The victory of the workers at Obafemi Awolowo University is further proof of the saying that those who ‘dare to fight, dare to win’. Revolutionary salutations to Ife workers, the coalition union members and the union leadership, for standing their ground till victory was achieved. It is essential to narrate the issue around the struggle and victory in detail.

For more than three years now the workers of Obafemi Awolowo University have been in constant struggle with the school management over negligence of the workers demands. These are included but are not limited to:

  • non-payment of workers’ wage arrears
  • two-step differential
  • hazard allowances
  • unjustified hike in school fees.     

At various intervals the workers called off their industrial action. This was on the understanding that when the management shuts down the school, the students – that were always in solidarity with the workers – would be at the receiving end.

At different occasions, the school management, under the leadership of Tale Omole, had attempted to frustrate the unity of the workers and sabotage their struggles. This they did through blackmail, propaganda and threats. Sometimes they would transfer some of the staff participating in the struggle to another establishment of the university.

All these cowardly and cheap moves proved to be impotent. So management resorted to seeking legal injunctions. These were to delay and prevent the workers from staging political or industrial actions in the fight for their rights.

The first of these attempts was in 2012, when the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) sued management to court over the non payment of hazard allowances at the agricultural institute. Management employed every bourgeois instruments to delay the court proceedings. Despite this, the workers remained unchallenged and resolved to fight for their rights.

Last year management again ran to court to prevent the workers from fighting for the non payment of workers’ arrears. But this time around the workers beat them back.

The tenure of Tale Omole as the university vice chancellor expired earlier this year. Management ambition was to protect their self interest at the expense of the workers collective interests and rights. So they attempted to impose a vice chancellor on the workers through crooked elections. These did not involve any of the workers’ unions or the workers generally. And this time again the workers united and stood their ground.

The workers employed every tactic they could to achieve victory. One of these measures was for the workers to picket the Senate building.  This lasted for several days and nights.  The Muslim workers were fasting during the month of Ramadan at the time, but they had to stay with their fellow workers. This shows that the struggle unites workers regardless of their religious attachments.

Members of the Socialist Youth League have always stood with the workers. As they win this victory we must however point out that it is not yet uhuru!

The Ife workers won a partial victory when the Federal Government ordered the imposed vice chancellor to vacate the office. The university Registrar is coordinating activities until a new vice chancellor is elected.

But the workers have to fight on for the university management to comply with their other demands. These include the payment of workers’ salary arrears, the reversal of the hike in school fees, and the workers’ full participation in the vice chancellor election process.

Workers in every sector can be inspired by the struggles of the various unions and the students at Obafemi Awolowo University. Remember the revolutionary song, ‘freedom cometh by struggle… by struggle freedom come.

by Lai Browne