Scores of workers converged at the Nigerian Labour Congress’ Ogun state council secretariat in Abeokuta for a ‘workers parliament’ this afternoon. The trade union leaders had summoned the meeting for 2:00 pm, to report back on negotiations with the state government, and to further chart a way forward with the strike which started three days ago. the atmosphere is obviously tended as it is evident that the rank and file of the workers are battle-ready.
The mood on the ground was militant, as rank-and-file union members arrived on time, fully charged and ready to take the struggle forward until victory. The trade union centers’ leaders arrived late to the NLC secretariat. It was written all over their faces that they were shocked by the extent of militancy which the workers showed.
The Labour leaders immediately went into their offices and refused to come out to commence the meeting they had summoned! Suspicion was raised among the rank and file that the meeting between their leaders and government representatives yielded no positive results and the leaders might have compromised the demands of the workers. The agitated workers started mounting pressure and calling on the leaders to come out and address them. There were efforts to break into the office of the NLC chairman with no success.
The rank-and-file workers started a protest, singing solidarity songs in which they called out the names of Emmanuel Bankole and Akeem Lasisi (chairs of the NLC and TUC respectively), to shame them into addressing the waiting workers. The NLC chairman, Bankole, addressed the workers.
He told them that negotiations are still ongoing with the government with no resolution yet reached. The workers kept chanting ‘strike continues’ but the chairman didn’t make a clear stance on the continuity of the strike. He rather just rushed back into his office in the Labour house, even though the workers tried to stop him from escaping from them.
The workers marched into his office and dragged him out. As this was going on, we witnessed a mobilization of security forces to the Labour secretariat. It seems that one of the labor leaders had called them on the phone. But the workers were resilient. They refused to be intimidated, and stood up in resistance to the security personnel, as they continued their agitation.
In their bid to stop the NLC chairman from running away from them, one of the workers slumped and lost consciousness. He was immediately rushed to the hospital. Reports from members of the SWL at the hospital confirm that the said worker, Comrade Sunday Ogunjimi from Odeda Local Government Area died.
The workers stayed back in their numbers at the NLC Secretariat till much later in the evening. They kept chanting and demanding the continuation of the strike action even though their leaders had compromised, as we later realized.
The 1-page so-called “memorandum of action” reached by the organized labor’s leaders with the government is littered with questionable promises to take action on virtually all the 8-points that the workers raised. The only point on which there appeared to be a commitment to take immediate action is the government’s promise to start the full release of gross salaries from July.
What this means is that check-off dues deductions for the unions which were not paid along with salaries will now be paid. That is of course much more important to the union bureaucrats than the welfare of their members!
But the genie has been let out of the kettle. Rank-and-file workers are not going to just sit down and watch for long, if the promises made do not translate into concrete action and soon enough. SWL salutes them and fully supports their struggle which has only just begun.
We also call for justice for Comrade Sunday and his family members who have now lost a loved one for no just cause. The responsibility for his death lies squarely at the door of the labor leaders, and the government that they were collaborating with against the interests of workers.
by Lekan A. Soneye