Set to disrupt Governor Okowa’s town hall meetings

Need for unity of unions – and strike movement

 

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Workers in the Local Government Areas of Delta state are set for a faceoff with the state government over 13 months salaries backlog. The workers, who are members of the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) have cried out that this is a terrible situation for them and their families. They are set to disrupt a series of town hall meetings by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, scheduled for May and June, across the state, if they are not paid.

The response of the government was that it is not responsible for LGA workers and should thus not be called to account for the unpaid wages. According to Mr Amaechi Udemba, media aide to governor: “federal government workers cannot be owed salaries and begin to blame state government for not paying them.”

But this is being half-clever. Everyone in Nigeria knows that the LGCs are tied to the apron strings of the state governments in a way different from how the states relate with the national government. And indeed workers from Grade Level 8 are employed directly by the Local Governments Service Commissions, which are organs of the states’ governments.

The state government did not stop at its criminal denial of responsibility for addressing the workers’ plight. It played the divide and rule card, singling out primary school teachers for part payment of their salary arrears. This has led to suspicion and friction between NULGE and the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT).

It is very important that Delta state workers across the different unions should not fall for this trickery. It is in our unity and solidarity that our strength lies. Members of NUT should call on their union to resist the flimsy carrot of a few months salaries. NULGE members should also not relent in calling on all workers in the LGAs irrespective of their unions to wage this battle.

Support of the communities should also be sought in organising massive protests to “welcome” Governor Okowa. Action must not stop with these demonstrations. This is the time for an indefinite strike action and generalised mass protests that will shut down Delta state. It is a struggle for all working-class people in Delta state.

NLC and TUC should equally step in and have organised labour speak out with one voice, and act together for a general strike. An injury to one is definitely an injury to all. This is a fundamental principle of the working-class movement.

by Lionel Akpoyivo