Officials explain why varsity unions defied FG’s threat of ‘no work, no pay’ to embark on 5-day warning strike
By Gabriel Dike
A week after their five-day warning strike, officials of the three aggrieved staff unions have cautioned the Federal Government to accede to their demands or face a full-blown industrial action.
Investigations by The Sun Education revealed that despite the suspension of the warning strike by Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) members are aggrieved that government failed to meet none of their demands.
It will be recalled that the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the three staff unions had issued the federal government with a 35-day ultimatum on December 12, 2016, at the expiration, of which it directed its members in public universities and the Nigerian French Language, Badagry, to embark on a five-day warning strike which ended on Friday, January 20.
Rather than engage the committee on how to resolve the industrial dispute, the federal government through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, tried to label the strike illegal. Telling the unions that there is nothing like warning strike in the National Industrial Relations System (NIRS), he threatened to invoke the ‘no-work, no-pay’’ policy but the three unions dared him to implement the law and even threatened to boycott a meeting with him.
Why members went on warning strike
In a circular to the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, JAC gave reasons for the five-day warning strike. They include poor funding of the universities, shortfall in payment of staff salaries, non-payment of earned allowances as contained in the 2009 agreement, issue of NUPEMCO to solve the problem of university staff pensions, non-implementation of NIC judgment on university staff schools, increasing corruption in the university system, lack of adequate teaching and learning facilities which have reduced the productivity of members, non-implementation of the negotiated career structure for technologists (CONTISS 14 and 15), poor governance and administrative lapses, inadequate physical infrastructure and abandoned projects.
Labour unions reactions
The staff unions faulted the position of the labour minister on the issue of there being noting like “warning strike” in the National Industrial Relations System (NIRS) while reminding him that in labour, there are several ways of embarking on strike.
The chairman of JAC and, National President, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, Mr. Samson Ugwoke, told The Sun Education that striking members of the unions are not bothered about the federal government’s ‘no work, no pay’ policy threat. “How can we be working when the signed 2009 agreement has not been implemented,” he asked rhetorically. “What is the point of being paid peanut? It is better we struggle to resolve the contentious issues now. When we get to that (no work, no pay threat) or to the bridge, we will cross it. When we finish with the warning strike, let them come up with no work, no pay. The threat is not even bothering us; it is not our major concern for now. This is a warning strike. At the end of the day, if government does not implement our demands, we will embark on full strike.’’
The Deputy General Secretary of NASU, Prince Adetunji Ademisoye, disclosed that the National Industrial Court (NIC) had ruled in favour of labour as regards the no work, no pay and taxed the minister to look for ways to resolve the crisis rather than threatening the workers. The President of NAAT, Sani Suleiman told The Sun Education that the minister of labour and employment was only trying to serve the interest of his master.
ERC backs JAC action
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) said it fully supports the strike by SSANU, NASU and NAAT to compel the federal government to fully implement the tenets of the 2009 FGN/ non-teaching staff union agreement. The group, in a statement signed by the National Coordinator, Hassan Taiwo and National Secretary, Ibukun Omole, called on Buhari government to immediately meet the demands of the unions in order to stem the dangerous cycle of incessant closure of campuses and disruption of academic calendar that have become permanent features of public education.