The four months industrial action of Primary school teachers in Benue State, has started taking its toll on the teachers as the government effected the ‘no work no pay’ rule.
The teachers numbering about 27,000 have embarked on indefinite strike action to press home their demands for the implementation of the minimum wage by the state government.
The state government had, on June 14, 2013 signed an agreement with the national body of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), to implement the payment of the minimum wage of primary school teachers in the state with effect from August 1, 2013. This was after the teachers had gone on series of incessant strikes and requested government to intervene before they would return to classes.
However, the government had not implemented the salary thresh-hold since August, as it assured, even as the primary school teachers had resume classes for the new session.
Investigations by LEADERSHIP Sunday revealed that the Benue State government had implemented the minimum wage for all civil servants in the state, including the secondary school teachers and local government workers.
According to investigations, the minimum wage as it affects the primary school teachers has not been implemented since 2011, even as the federal government had directed all states in the country to effect the new salary structure. The state government claimed that it has no money to meet the teachers’ demands unless the federal government intervened.
But on October 24, 2013 the aggrieved teachers having waited patiently but would not be paid the new minimum wage, embarked on another round of strike action.
In a letter signed by Comrade Simon Shinpu with reference number NUT/BSW/11/VOL.4/217, the teachers said, “the state government has defaulted in paying the minimum wage which it signed at Abuja in June 14th, 2013 by its representatives which include the attorney general and commissioner for justice, deputy Governor Steven Lawani, special adviser on local government and chieftaincy affairs and labour chairman who all witnessed it.”
The letter added, “a state government delegation led by the head of service went to Abuja and pleaded with the NUT after a default of a week, the government still defaulted and the national body has directed all its staff to resume an indefinite strike.”
Sadly, there was pandemonium on October 24, 2013, when pupils of primary schools took to the streets of Makurdi, the state capital to protest their teachers incessant strike actions.
The primary school pupils, who carried school books and bags began the peaceful demonstration at the LGEA primary school, Demekpe, located near the NKST church Wadata, on Benue crescent in Makurdi. They chanted protest songs, carried placards and peacefully marched towards the state secretariat of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC)
The protest which started at about 8 am, lasted for about two hours when men of the state commands of the Nigeria police and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) arrived at the scene to abort the protest. The security operatives reportedly shot sporadically into the air, and threw cans of tear gas at the pupils to disperse them. The incident disrupted traffic for several hours.
According to the protesting pupils, they were on the streets “because we are not happy as government is refusing to pay our teachers and we don’t want them go on strike, we want to go to school. These incessant strikes have collapsed our brilliant performances.”
The state chairman of NUT, Comrade Godwin Anya, insisted that “the strike would continue until government is able to implement the minimum wage. Government had implemented that of all civil servants since 2011 but has deliberately refused to effect that of primary school teachers even as it reassured the teachers that the payment would commence in August, 2013.”
Meanwhile, the state government has insisted that it has no resources to implement the minimum wage of primary school teachers unless the number of primary schools and teachers are pruned.
The Special Adviser to the state governor on local government and chieftaincy affairs, Mr Solomon Wombo said, “what the primary school teachers were collecting after implementation of the 27.5 per cent salary increment was clearly above the minimum wage and with the addition in August they are just slightly below what staff at the state government level are collecting. They are not supposed to embark on any strike.”