Less than three months after they suspended their six-month-old industrial action, there are strong indications that workers of the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), Ikorodu, are ready for another showdown with the institution’s management.
The fresh crisis is not unconnected with the alleged mass sack of leaders of the various workers’ unions on the campus, who were reportedly involved in the prolonged industrial action and the accompanying public protests.
Last week, five workers, including a deputy registrar and member of the polytechnic’s chapter of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP), Rasheedat Abudu; Adeniji Yusuf of the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), and Olorunseun Anuoluwapo of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), were dismissed.
In a statement jointly issued by both SSANIP and NASU on Saturday, the workers called on Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to intervene in the matter.
They accused the Samuel Sogunro-led administration of launching an onslaught on their members over their opposition to alleged misrule, corruption and dictatorship by the management.
The statement, which was signed by the SSANIP chairman and NASU treasurer, Oluseye Ero-Philips and Ajasa Ahmed, respectively, said no fewer than 48 workers of the institution had at one time or the other been remanded in prison on trumped-up charges.
“We are calling on His Excellency, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and well-meaning Lagosian to prevail on the Sogunro-led management to stop the fresh onslaught on our members and union leaders.
“Since January this year, the management has launched series of oppressive victimization on the entire staff of the polytechnic. Till this moment, majority of staff still go home with negative salary that has led to various psychological trauma on members.
“The management had sent over forty eight (48) to ikoyi and kirikiri prisons on a trumped-up charges, which led to the death of comrade Owolabi Sunday and another incarcerated fellow is presently on partial stroke! The case of NASU 4 that were illegally disengaged still lingers, as the management vowed not to reverse the illegality despite the governor’s intervention.
“On Monday 24th September 2019, five (5) members of staff were dismissed as a result of their involvement in the union’s struggle. Another five (5) union leaders have been served a letter to face a kangaroo staff disciplinary committees that was purportedly set up by the management to sack en-mass union leaders come Monday 30th September 2019.”
School denies victimisation allegation
But the management of the institution has denied victimising workers for their involvement in industrial action in the institution.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, the head of the college’s information unit, Olanrewaju Kuye, said due processes were followed before in all the dismissal or termination of appointment cases.
“There are laid-down procedures before anyone could be asked to leave the service of a polytechnic. This is a public institution and not a private one. Some of these cases have taken more than one year and had to pass through a lot of stages, including staff disciplinary committee, appointment and promotion committee of the governing council, and finally, the governing council.
“So don’t be carried away by sentiment. There are laws and the management would not abuse the law for whatever reason.”
Background to the crisis
On January 20, the non-academic staff of the polytechnic embarked on industrial action over what they termed the wrong implementation of Consolidated Tertiary Institution Salary Structure (CONTISS) 15 migration, poor welfare conditions, harassment of both workers and students, among others.
The strike action was backed with continuous mass protests, which led to complete shutdown of the institution as the management members were chased out of the campus for many months.
In July, the police reportedly arrested 38 members of the union who were on a sit-out protest on the campus. They were later charged to Ebute Metta magistrate court and remanded in prison.
The development led to a protest at the government secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja, by a group of activists under the umbrella of Socialist Workers and Youth League, and Centre for Policy Intervention in Africa.
The group had demanded the immediate release of arrested workers, dissolution of the school’s governing council and the sack of the Samuel Sogunro-led management of the institution.
Students of the institution had also held a rally at the office of the governor, calling on the new administration to intervene in the prolonged industrial action in the school.
The governor later advised the sacked workers to send their appeal to the governing council with copies sent to the office of the head of service. He pledged to address all issues hindering the progress at the 41-year-old institution.
Mr Sanwo-Olu, however, warned the staff of the institution to desist from fomenting trouble, saying his administration would not hesitate to wield the big stick against any erring worker.
A statement by Mr Sanwo-Olu through his chief press secretary, Gboyega Akoshile, had read, in part; “By the powers conferred on me as Governor of Lagos state, I hereby order the constitution of a Visitation Panel to the institution to investigate all contentious issues and submit its recommendations for my consideration.
“The State Government, without prejudice to an earlier rebuff of its magnanimous gesture to re-consider the disengagement of some employees of the institution, is once again asking disengaged officers who are willing to continue their service in the institution to forward their letters of appeal to the institution’s Governing Council within seven days for a review of their disengagement. Copies of such letters should be duly endorsed to the Head of Service for an unbiased review of the process leading to their disengagement.
“Employees of the institution should note that they are under contractual obligation to perform optimally as stated in the terms of their employment. Any acts that are contrary to this shall be treated in accordance with the Public Service Rules, other extant regulations and the Labour Laws.”
Governor Sanwo-Olu said his administration appreciated the role a strong, dynamic and enlightened academic union is playing in entrenching culture of industrial harmony and development, he, however, said his government would not bend to blackmail and be hoodwinked by “a union that continues to carry out its agitations in a manner that threatens and is becoming inimical to the peace of the state.”
Mr Sanwo-Olu assured that normalcy would be restored and sustained in the institution while ensuring the safety and security of all members of the school during and after the examination.
The governor’s intervention led to the suspension of the industrial action in July by the striking workers.
Two months after, no visitation panel constituted
Two months after the governor gave the order for the constitution of a visitation panel, none has been constituted.
The workers have, therefore, blamed the governor for the current situation on the campus. They said his failure to act as promised has emboldened the administration to continue with their victimisation.
They, however, appealed to Mr Sanwo-Olu to rise to the occasion and act as the governor they voted for, who they claimed had promised to protect the interest of the powerless and work for the masses of the state.
One of the ASUP members, who has received a letter of query and is billed to appear before the school’s disciplinary committee on Wednesday, told PREMIUM TIMES that the school had concluded its plan to sack all union leaders.
“So the appearance before the disciplinary committee is just for formality,” the lecturer, who asked not to be named, said.