Kogi state workers are once again at the barricades. An indefinite strike action called by the trade union centres and the JNC commenced in the last week of June. The workers are demanding the payment of salaries and a reversal of the unilateral opening of bank accounts for state workers and local government workers in Zenith and Access banks, respectively.
Workers in the state had earlier embarked on a strike action a few days before Christmas when their salaries were slashed by 40% with 3 months unpaid wages, by the former governor Captain Idris Wada. With mass action, the wage cut was reversed.
The new governor, Mr Yahaya-Bello set up a verification committee headed by Rtd Brigadier General Pul Okutinmo, notorious as the butcher of the Ogoni during the military dictatorship. The committee was supposed to weed out “ghost workers” but became a tool for attacking workers’ leaders. Comrade Edoka, the NLC Chairma, a Disease Surveillance Officer who was employed by the state government in 1989 for example was declared to be a ghost worker in May!
While the committee continued with its questionable work, unpaid salaries continued to pile up. Now, the workers are being owed for six months. In some cases, particularly in the local governments, with primary school teachers being most affected, some workers have not received wages for 23 months!
The unilateral opening of new bank accounts for workers into which a month’s wages were paid was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. The workers’ are convinced that there is more to this than meets the eye.
Not surprisingly, banks apart from the two favoured ones, where workers’ salary accounts have been moved away from are in support of the strike. The bosses who manage these banks have even directed workers in these workplaces to “join” the strike.
The trade unions and rank and file workers must not be deceived by this Greek Gift. The banks’ bosses were against the last strike and made sure that bank workers did not participate. They are merely interested in the proceeds of having the workers’ accounts in their banks.
The state government has described the strike as an act of sabotage. It is going about as if paying a month’s wages is being generous, apart from the shifty unilateral change in banks workers accounts are domiciled. But Kogi workers have never been cowed by such blackmail which has become the regular order of the state government when they fightback.
The recent strike in Kogi is reflective of the fighting spirit of workers in the state. Two months back, lecturers in the Kogi State University also embarked on a “no pay, no work” strike action, without much success. As we argued then, there was the need for the university teachers and other aggrieved sections of the working class to fight together.
That position is as valid now as it was two months ago. Indeed, it is even more pressing now than ever. There is strength and when more workers embark on mass action together, a bigger blow is dealt to the bosses.
Workers in Kogi state must not waver until victory is won. They ust not be deceived by any section of the bosses’ class that presents itself as being friends, such as the bankers. They also have to unite forces for a massive resistance that will include all sections of the working class for the decisive battles that have to be waged for the payment of backlogs of wages and for our self-emancipation from the exploitative and oppressive system of capitalism which condemns workers to suffering and hardships.
by Segun Ogun
Post Script: the strike was called off on August 1, as the Socialist Worker August-September edition came out of the press