The stage appears set for renewed struggle in the ivory towers. The Academic Staff of Universities Union (ASUU) issued a 14-day ultimatum on March 14 at Akure. Meanwhile, branches of the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Senor Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) at the University of Ibadan commenced industrial action which shutdown the school.
The Chairman of the Akure zone of ASUU, Dr Alex Odiyi announced the lecturers’ ultimatum at a press conference, in Akure. Their grouse, he said, is that they have been experiencing wage cuts. This is the same reason why the non-teaching staff in UI embarked on indefinite strike.
There is absolutely no justification for salary cuts. The politicians and bosses in the private sector have continued to enjoy fat emoluments and bonuses. But, those whose labour is exploited as workers, in the academia and the world of work as a whole are being made to suffer the depletion of salaries that are inadequate in the first place.
Socialist Worker welcomes these embers of resistance. There is however the need for the unions to unite and fight as one. The UI struggle strike is to some extent an expression of such solidarity. With NASU, NAAT and SSANU coming together to pursue the strike, they are more likely to win.
And more importantly, taking action together helps to build class consciousness. Members of the different unions learn from practice that we have common interests as workers against the bosses.
But, this has to be taken further. The teaching and non-teaching staff are equally affected by the shortfalls in salaries as shown by the commonalities of demands of the striking workers in UI and the ultimatum of ASUU in Akure. A national strike action of all workers in the universities is more likely to lead to victory.
Students support for the workers’ industrial action would equally consolidate mass resistance from below. Young activists on the campuses have to argue for the students’ unions, joint canpuses’ committees, zonal coordination and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) to issue resolutions in support of the workers’ resistance, and organise demonstrations to press home this support.
The fate of youth and the working class are bound together in the struggle for a better society. In tertiary institutions, this includes fighting for improved funding of education, for: enhanced remuneration for workers and resistance to pay cuts in any form, and struggle against fees and for free, qualitative education. The root of the immediate concerns of students and those of both teaching and non-teaching workers is the same.
That root, which is the commodification of education thrives in the soil of capitalism. Thus, as we fight for immediate demands such as an end to the regime of pay cuts, and tuition fees hike, this must be situated within the overarching struggle to overthrow the capitalist system and build a socialist order on the soil of democracy from below and solidarity.
by Baba Aye