No work no pay- Oshiomhole tells teachers
The Edo State government and the state’s wing of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) have crossed swords over the partial implementation of the Teachers’ Peculiar Allowances and suspension of salaries of striking teachers. With talks breaking down between both parties, resolving the crisis may be a challenge, reports OSAGIE OTABOR.
There appears to be no end in sight of the strike by members of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in Edo State since June 1 over the implementation of the 27.5 per cent Teachers Special Allowances (TSA) also called Teachers Peculiar Allowances.
Efforts by several stakeholders to intervene so schools can reopen have failed as the state government and the NUT have refused to shift grounds for negotiations to take place.
The NUT members have also held several prayer sessions to seek divine intervention in the face-off.
It was gathered that the government plans to advertise for new primary school teachers if the third term ends with the strike.
Public primary schools have been closed since June 1, but secondary school pupils have been attending classes as Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS) refused to join in the strike.
The Edo State NUT joined 10 other states where the 27.5 per cent TSA was not implemented to embark on the strike following directives of its national body.
The strike nearly marred the conduct of the Primary School Leaving Certificate Examination, but the state government made alternative arrangements for the examination to hold.
Edo State was the first to implement the TSA in an agreement it entered with NUT and ASUSS that it would pay 17 per cent of the 27.5 per cent, while the balance would be added when the finances of the state improved. At a meeting Governor Adams Oshiomhole told the NUT officials to call off the strike. He said he would look at the financial implications of the full implementation on the purse of the local government councils.
Commissioner for Basic Education, Patrick Aguinede, said the NUT leadership promised to meet with members and report back on their reaction, but they did not.
The NUT chairman, Patrick Ikosimi said the first meeting did not produce any result and that the second meeting slated for June 11 was not held because, “the state government did not show readiness to meet with the leadership of the NUT.”
“The state government wants us to call off the strike, but we have made it clear to them that the strike was called by the national body and that it is not our duty to call it off. Once the state government does the right thing like other states, the strike will be called off.
“We were not taught to call off strike before going into negotiation. I can’t disobey the national body’s directive. They said an agreement must be reached before we call of the strike. They said we must have something concrete from the state government,” he said.
On June 19, Oshiomhole approved the payment of the 27.5 per cent TSA with effect from July for secondary school teachers after a meeting with executives of ASUSS.
He also invoked the No Work, No Pay rule on the striking primary school teachers and described the strike as illegal. The governor said it was wrong for the teachers to embark on strike when there was a subsisting agreement.
He praised ASUSS for trusting him and not going on strike or doing anything that would affect the academic calendar. He said teachers that are not prepared to work would be encouraged to stay away permanently.
His words: “I have never made promises to you that I have never kept. That is why I hurt when the NUT even though they were a party to that meeting, even though they agreed that what we are paying now is what we agreed to and that we have not violated any agreement, they promised that they needed time and would get back to us, they have continued with the strike.
“I have monitored the comments made by the NUT Chair in which he tried to twist the facts. Such tactics will not help. As a government, we cannot fold our hands and watch anyone continue to disrupt our academic calendar. For members of the NUT who are not working, they will definitely not be paid for the period they did not work.
“Because they are employees of the Local Government, I have directed the Local Government to meet and decide what to do about those teachers who have refused to come to work. If the Local Government listens to my advice, not only will they apply no work, no pay; we cannot continue to keep our schools closed.
“I believe the teachers have completely abused this understanding and they have decided to hold the system to ransom. I believe it is time to deal with the issue squarely and put it behind us.
“If they are under the illusion that anybody is going to increase their pay while they are on strike, that is not going to happen. I have also directed the Commissioner for Education to discontinue the assessment for promotion exercise as it concerns primary school teachers. If they are at home, the promotion exercise is also suspended.”
Concerned about the continued strike, civil society organisations in the state intervened by convening a town hall meeting between the teachers and the state government.
Aguinede and two other commissioners, Chief Lucky James of the Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, and Washington Osifo of the Higher Education attended the meeting held at the Urhokpota hall.
The hall was packed full with teachers and the NUT was led by its first State Vice Chairman, John Aiyobahan.
Indication that the meeting would end in futility was when the government delegations observed that important officials of the NUT were absent. Aguinede expressed reservations whether the absentee NUT leadership would accept the decision reached at the meeting. It took the intervention of the organisers to call the meeting to order even as it was indicated the NUT leadership boycotted because the Governor was not present.
Rev. David Ugolor of the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice said the meeting was to create an avenue for teachers to know the truth of the issues at stake and for the government to talk to the teachers directly.
Aiyobahan explained to the members that the state government refused to negotiate with them.
“We are not so hardened. The issue is not about calling off the strike but for an agreement to be reached. We have passed the stage of negotiation. We are now at the implementation stage,” he said.
The hall became rowdy as the teachers shouted down comments by the commissioners. James and Aguinede could not convince the teachers on the need to go back to classes.
Lucky told the teachers they were not told the truth by the NUT leadership. He urged the teachers to suspend the strike and that the state government would make an announcement within two days.
Aguinede said the government would not negotiate while the teachers were on strike and appealed for understanding from the teachers.
The meeting was hurriedly called off as the commissioners dashed off to the weekly state executive told The Nation that meetings.
Some of the teachers who spoke accused the state government of negotiating with an illegal body and vowed not to return to classes.
Ugolor told The Nation that they would meet with the NUT and the government on the matter.
The face-off between the NUT and the government will not end by just calling off the strike as the NUT would have to fight for the payment of their salaries stopped as well as the suspension of the promotion assessment of teachers.