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26 December 2018
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Osun State Chapter, hereby bemoans the despotic approach of the management and Governing Council of Osun State University (UNIOSUN) to the agitations and demands of the staff unions of the university. We condemn the highhandedness of the Prof. Labode Popoola-led University Management, which has led to undemocratic attacks on the rights of workers in the institution to unionisation, expression and assembly. We call on the Governor of Osun State, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, who is the visitor to the institution, and Osun State government, the owner, to stop the university administration in the ruinous path it has taken against staff unions and their leaders.
Currently, some staffs who are members of the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), including ten leaders of the three unions, have been put on illegal and unjustified suspension by the university management over trumped up charges. Also, several others have been issued queries for their principled participation in union activities. Moreover, some members have been arraigned in court by the Osun State Police Command working for the authorities of UNIOSUN over their participation in a peaceful protest and picket on November 22nd, 2018. It should be noted that this protest on November 22nd saw the police using heavy and live ammunition on protesting members of these unions. Ironically, the same police that should be prosecuted for engaging in anti-democratic and oppressive actions became the accuser and prosecutor of those whose rights were violated.
Behind the crisis in the university is the despotic administrative style of the Prof. Labode Popoola-led university administration and the Governing Council.
The interest of the authorities of the university is to castrate independent unionism in the university and turn workers into dummies, against all known constitutional and democratic norms. For instance, without any right to fair hearing, the vice chancellor went on air on Tuesday 20th November to suspend ten leaders of the three non-academic staff unions. This is against the ethics and rules of the university which demand that disciplinary action against any staff must follow laid down rules including constituting a proper disciplinary committee, which must include representatives of staff unions.
Moreover, the Prof. Labode Popoola-led administration has launched attacks on academic staff. Just as it did with non-academic unions, the administration has begun the process of victimizing academic staffs who joined the ongoing national strike of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). In fact, three leaders of ASUU have been placed on suspension for joining the national strike, while others are being threatened. Salaries of those who joined the national strike have been stopped with many of them facing loss of job. The administration is also using divide-and-rule tactics to break the ranks of staff unions.
Behind the autocratic administrative style of Prof. Popoola-led management is the huge financial malfeasance in the university. While the vice chancellor awards for himself and officials of the university huge allowances, workers' statutory dues are not given to them. For instance, 60 percent of Earned Allowances for 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 sessions, as approved by the Governing Council, have not yet been paid to staff. Also, pension deductions from workers' salaries have not been remitted to various pension accounts of workers. Currently, the vice chancellor is facing corruption allegations at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Rather than meet its statutory responsibilities to workers, the administration embarked on anti-union action by denying workers their May and June 2018 salaries because of legitimate strike action of workers for improved working conditions. The same management, who hinged the non-payment of May and June 2018 salaries on the vindictive 'No Work, No Pay' policy, actually paid thirty four staff who had participated in the strike, while most of the workers were not paid. This was a divide and rule method of the university administration. Furthermore, despite the commitment of the university administration during a meeting of the Chairman of the Governing Council, Mallam Yussuf Alli, with staff unions' representatives and Parents' Association leaders, to pay the outstanding two months' salaries, workers are still denied their salaries. Rather, the university administration has gone on the offensive to harass, intimidate and victimize union leaders.
It is therefore apposite to state that lingering industrial crisis in UNIOSUN is a product of mismanagement, highhandedness and anti-union actions of the university authorities. All this again validates the position of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) that without democratic running of educational institutions, various appointed officials will turn themselves into demigods and see educational institutions as their conquered territories. With proper funding and democratic management involving workers' and students' elected representatives in all decision-making structures of the education sector, it can be possible to democratically plan running of educational institutions in the interest of the society.
We therefore call on the Gboyega Oyetola-led Osun State Government to immediately stop the shenanigans being perpetrated against workers in UNIOSUN. We call for immediate payment of all outstanding arrears of salaries owed workers, and for immediate remittance of all outstanding pension deduction. We demand end to all attacks on workers' rights and attacks on staff unions in UNIOSUN. We call for reversal of the obnoxious and illegal suspension of union members, withdrawal of vindictive queries issued to workers for participating in union activities, and withdrawal of trumped up charges against workers by the police. We call for the payment of the allowance of students' union in UNIOSUN as this is long overdue. We call for constitution of a democratic probe/visitation panel to look into all contending issues in the university. Such democratic panel should include elected representatives of staff unions and students' union.
We also demand proper funding of UNIOSUN, and drastic reduction in school fees paid by students. The current fee regime in the institution is exploitative as it denies children from poor and working class background access to university education.
Conclusively, we express our solidarity with staff unions and ask them not to rest until victory is assured. We call on students, ASUU and labour movement in Osun State to give solidarity and support to workers in UNIOSUN. An injury to one is an injury to all.