By Adeola Oladele, Ibadan
Workers’ unions across six Oyo State-owned tertiary institutions in Oyo, Igbo-Ora, Eruwa and Lanlate on Friday commenced indefinite strike action in protest of over 15 months salary arrears owed its members following 25 percent subvention being paid by the state government.
Among the institutions are Oyo State College of Agriculture and Technology (OYSCATECH); The Ibarapa.
Polytechnic and The Polytechnic Ibadan, The Oke-Ogun Polytechnic, Saki; The College of Education, Lanlate and Emmanuel Alayande College of Education (EACOED), Oyo.
The workers on Friday shut the gates to the institution and staged peaceful protest, tagged “Peace walk” beginning in front of their school gates, moved round their various host communities to press home their demand.
Staff of Oyo State College of Agriculture and Technology (OYSCATECH) Igbo-Ora, moved from the school gates to the traditional rulers in the town, in Eruwa, workers led by the Chairman of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP), Mr Segun Aderounmu, Dr Olatunde Ogundiran in Lanlate led The College of Education staff to move round the town while Segun Oyewumi led Emmanuel Alayande College of Education round the town.
The workers displaid placards with various inscriptions such as “we can no longer pay our rents, pay our salaries”, “we’ve been made irresponsible parents, pay our salaries”, “No classrooms for students, no office for staff”, “No 100 percent salary, no work”, “Our people are hungry, pay our salaries”, “We’re not beggars, no more 25 percent salary”, “All we are saying, pay us our 15 months salaries”, “we are dying” and “Workers deserve an improved welfare”to press home their demands.
Speaking with journalists, the Chairman, Joint Action Committee of Trade Unions in all Oyo tertiary institutions, Mr Afeez Adeniyi stated that the indefinite strike was inevitable, having explored all available efforts to resolve the logjam before now.
According to him, “Our resolution is to embark on indefinite strike action after the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum issued to government at its meeting of October 19 held at the Oke-Ogun Polytechnic,’’ He said.
Azeez, who spoke in Igboora, said that the strike action embarked upon was to actualize the payment of the 15 months salary arrears and the restoration of 100 percent salary payment.
“The last time we received full salary was December, 2015. Since January 2016, we have been receiving 25 percent salary which we do call subvention.The state government had since January 2016 reduced subvention to the institutions to 25 percent, which also reduced the salary to 25 percent,’’ he said.
Adeniyi who stated that the workers have almost turned beggars in their respective communities, a situation he said had worsened with the death of several of their colleagues due to their inability to manage their health.
He listed those who had succumbed to death in the struggle as Dr Kabir Bello, Mr Abiodun Oke and Alhaja Sakirat Gbadegesin during the crisis, while adding that another staff, Mrs Motunrayo Shofolahan attempted suicide two days ago.
According to him, “in the last six years of the Ajimobi-led administration, OYSCATECH has not received any fund for infrastructural development. The current situation of the institution established 10 years ago is almost destroying the objectives which it was set up.”
The ASUP Chairman, Ibarapa Polytechnic, Eruwa, Mr Segun Aderounmu, disclosed that the workers are not ready to return to work until government pay their 15months salary arrears and commence full 100 percent subvention to the institution.
Aderounmu lamented the deduction of 100 percent tax by the government from the meager 25 percent subvention given to the institutions as another blow to the educational development of the state by the current administration in the state.
His words, “It is unfortunate that our members cannot feed, manage their health and pay school fees of their wards. Internally Generated Revenue of the institution cannot be used finance the institutions. We have told government about this. We are ready for negotiation with government in as much are considerate parents but we are bent on the restoration of 100% salary payment.”
Similarly, the Chairman, College of Education Staff Union(COEASU), The Oyo State College of Education, Lanlate, Dr Olatunde Ogundiran, lamented the insensitivity of government to their plight.
Ogundiran added that the hardship experienced by members has reached its peak, saying they continue to lose their members to their economical inability to be responsible for their family financial calling.
He said that the situation was as a result the non-payment of their salaries, saying the industrial action would be total until government heed to their demands.
The Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Professor Adeniyi Olowofela debunked the claims of the state government owing the institutions such arrears of salaries. He said there is no month that the state government is not releasing money to the institutions.
He also assured that the state government which has never been founding wanting in its constitutional responsibility of transforming the state, as it has always does found lasting solution to the imbroglio.
Professor Olowofela said, “There is no problem that exists in this earth that does not have a solution, so, we are working on the solution. I have with the unions before and we have met with the heads of tertiary institutions and we are also meeting with the NLC on Tuesday, we believe that we come to a workable solution to this current imbroglio. The strike will be called off very soon. Once we solve the problem.
“Life is always is always give and take. We will do some and they will also have to agree with the government to some extent.
“There is no month which the state government don’t give money, the question of government owing 13th or 14th month salary is not true. Then, if they now lack capacity to meet the obligation, government will now look at the possibilities. For instance, when you look at the current expenditure as far as The Polytechnic, Ibadan, is concern vis-a-vis the money government is charging, it implies that the state government is subsidizing each student to the tune of N200,000. We will balace it out, things will work out,” Olowofela stated.