“We were just paid the salary of October 2013 last December…” This was the sobering response to questions from Socialist Worker, by a “temporarily-engaged” lecturer at the Institute of Continuing Education (I.C.E), Benin City, who chose to remain anonymous for fear of possible victimisation.
The tertiary institution was established in 1972 by the Col. Ogbemudia-led military administration. It has been operating continually since then, except for the last two years when admissions have been stopped.
Interviews with some of the workers at the Institute show that about 70 percent of the workforce is casual. There is the shocking case of some workers, including lecturers that have been working at the Institute for the past 12 years and have still not been regularised. A set of workers were appointed in September, 2008, but have been waiting endlessly for regularisation of their contracts since they started.
“Our appointments have not been regularised,” Socialist Worker was further told. “This is despite the promise given to us by Governor Oshiomhole at the Institute’s 40th anniversary in June 2012.”
Another worker, who identified himself as Felix, explained that the state government had directed that all workers at the Institute should have been regularised in 2012. This directive, he said was given by Adams Oshiomhole himself after the workers complained to him at the anniversary. “But since, nothing has been done.” “In fact,” he told Socialist Worker, “we are being owed not less than 26 months salary now!”
The workers that are being paid according to the current salary structure (CONTISS) are the few who are permanent workers. Others are paid much less and only receive salaries once or twice a year. This is so horrible, as many of the workers barely survive alongside their families. Their students (numbering over 2,000 now) are badly affected as they get far less than the education they paid for, in terms of quality. No-one should expect a miracle from a workforce that is perpetually kept in hunger, with dashed hopes of getting a permanent job.
Yet, many of the workers are highly qualified. This has been confirmed by the state government during several verification exercises. Many of these are used to intimidate and victimize workers when they demand payment of their salaries and allowances.
To add insult upon injury, the I.C.E workers are not allowed to unionize. Only the junior staffers are organized under the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU). But the union is not effective because only the few permanent staffers are allowed to join it.
Socialist Worker decries the bestial and messy state of the I.C.E workers. We call on the Oshiomhole-led Edo State government to immediately pay their outstanding salaries of over 26 months. We also call on the State Government to halt the abuses of the Labour Law which abhors casualization. All I.C.E workers should be regularised immediately with all their benefits paid in full.
We also call on all the I.C.E workers, both casual and permanent, to brace up and share solidarity by unionizing. Workers have a right to a union, and the Federal Constitution is clear on this. Nobody, no matter how powerful, must be allowed to infringe on fundamental human rights. Our collective self-freedom can only be successful as a result of our own actions.
Socialist Worker further appeals to the Edo NLC Council to establish an Anti-Casualization Committee, as has been recommended by the national leadership of NLC. This committee, if active, should help to keep in check the devilish and excessive casualization which has littered the nooks and crannies of Edo State, as with many other states. We must not allow the ruling class to continually take advantage of the working people by living large and feeding fat on our cheapened labour.