The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige has said that any proposed increase in allowances and salaries by the Academic Staff Union of Universities that is not in sync with the National Salaries and Wages Commission will not scale through.
The minister also advised the union to work with what was obtainable with the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission and the Presidential Steering Committee on salaries and wages.
Saturday PUNCH reports that ASUU and the Federal Government had begun a series of negotiations aimed towards the suspension of the four-week strike declared by the union.
ASUU during its extraordinary National Executive Council meeting held at the University of Lagos on February 14,2022 had declared the action over what it claimed was the failure of the government to meet its lingering demands, including earned allowances, release of revitalization funds for universities, increase in salary scale of lecturers, deployment of the UTAS payment platform for university workers, among others.
Following ASUU’s declaration, religious organizations, House of Representatives, Students bodies among others had called on the Federal Government to prevail on the union to end the strike.
Speaking to Saturday PUNCH, Ngige explained that one of ASUU’s major demands was centered on the increase in allowances and salaries.
According to the minister, increment in salaries and allowances is a process that undergoes due process.
He said, “The demands were not new areas, but issues already being addressed by the Federal Government since last year.
“That is why I said we are shocked that they went on this strike. These issues were discussed November/ December last year up to the time we paid the monies for the Earned Academic Allowances. It was done last year. We paid N22.172 billion. So, they have received the money.
“The second area is renegotiation of the 2009 agreement. It talks about renegotiation of their conditions of service, both salaries and allowances. I made it clear to them that there is a government process. The Federal Ministry of Education alone cannot wake up and increase your salaries.
“There are known rates for allowances and any proposal not in sync with what the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission prescribed would not sail through.
“I made it clear to ASUU that they should follow the normal route and work with the NSIWC and PSC in pursuit of their demands.
“So, if you are talking about duty tour allowances for a lecturer in the university, who is also a public officer, it must not be above what is presently rolled out as the new guideline. If you are talking about hazard allowance, it must not be above what is obtainable for the university system.”
Total varsity shutdown looms as SSANU, others threaten strike
In a related development, a total shutdown of universities in the country may be imminent following a fresh strike notice to the Federal Government over non-implementation of signed agreements by the National Association of Academic Technologists, Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions.
The threat is coming barely 13 days after the Academic Staff Union of Universities declared a one-month warning strike which has crippled academic activities in universities nationwide.
The Joint Action Committee of NASU and SSANU said at its meeting on February 24, 2022, it has reviewed the status of the Memorandum of Understanding reached with the Federal Government following its industrial action of January and February 2021.
Addressing journalists in Abuja on Friday, President of NAAT, Ibeji Nwokoma explained that each branch of the union would hold congresses between March 15 – 16 to discuss the response of the FG to their demands.
He said the university technologists have given the government February 28 to March 14 to implement its demands, adding that the Joint Action Committee comprising SSANU and NASU have put its members on “red alert” over a possible strike.
He added that a two-week warning strike would be declared by NAAT on March 17, 2022 at the expiration of the two-week grace if there was no positive response from the government.
In a statement jointly signed by the General Secretary, NASU, Prince Peters Adeyemi and National President of SSANU, Mohammed Ibrahim, the JAC said, “Having waited one whole year for the consummation of the Memorandum of Understanding and despite all peaceful entreaties, we wish to notify all stakeholders in the Nigerian universities and Inter-University Centres and indeed all Nigerians of the possible breakdown of industrial peace in the university system borne out of disrespect for Collective Bargaining Agreements reached with NASU and SSANU by Government.”
Some of the demands of the unions include non – full implementation of the 2009 agreement, alleged refusal to release the enabling circular for the implementation of CONTISS 14 & 15 for Academic Technologists as contained in the MOU of 2017, 2020 and 2021; non-payment of Earned Allowance as agreed in the MoU of 2021 and delay in renegotiation of 2009 agreement.
But the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said the unions had not officially communicated their intention to embark on strike to his ministry and directed the unions to get in touch with the Federal Ministry of Education on the level of implementation of the MoU.
Meanwhile, some Nigerians on Friday in Abuja called on the Federal Government to meet ASUU’s demands.
They told the News Agency of Nigeria that the incessant strike was not good for the education sector, saying it had stalled the academic progress of many students.