By Gabriel Dike
The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) has directed each branch to conduct referendum, to determine whether members should down tools indefinitely, go on warning strike or declare trade dispute for some months.
ASUP National President, Mr. Umaru Dutse, told Daily Sun, yesterday, that demands of the union are non-provision of funds for the Needs Assessment of public polytechnics, persistent shortfall in personnel cost, non-payment of salaries in many state institutions with accrued arrears of between three to nine months, even with the receipt of three tranches of the Paris Club Debt refund and budget support (bailout funds) releases to states and a bill for a review of the Polytechnic Act which has passed Second Reading at the Senate.
ASUP’s demands are that CONTISS 15 has been the most malignant among the lingering issues, with arrears put at N20 billion, establishment of a National Polytechnics Commission, removal of dichotomy between Higher National Diploma and degree holders. which has lingered for long, despite approvals for its removal, many state polytechnics do not have governing councils and most of their programmes still run without accreditation, many institutions have now adopted alternatives to practicals because of infrastructural decay and poor equipment in their laboratories, studios and workshops and poor funding, with the budgetary allocation to polytechnic grossly inadequate and unable to make any significant impact in the system.
Daily Sun learnt that ASUP’s National Executive Council (NEC) issued the directive to branches to hold referendum on the type of strike the union should embark on, following the federal government’s alleged refusal to meet the union’s demands.
ASUP branches, according to a national officer, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak, are expected to conduct the referendum from Wednesday, September 27 and September 28, 2017, while chairmen are expected to submit the outcome at NEC meeting, next week.
It was gathered that the NEC, which will hold at Abia State Polytechnic, is expected to collate and arrive at a resolution, based on the outcome of the referendum.Nevertheless, Dutse confirmed that the referendum will hold this week while the 89th NEC meeting is scheduled for October 2, 2017, “to decide the next line of action.”
Some chapter chairmen confirmed receipt of the directive from NEC to conduct referendum on whether members should embark on strike.
Although some branch chairmen, from the South West, South East and North Central confirmed the directive, “feelers from members, who are agitated over government neglect of the polytechnic system and non-implementation of the signed agreement will certainly tilt the scale for indefinite strike.”
One of the chairmen disclosed that the union would have gone on strike in January but for the federal government’s intervention.
adding ‘’we expected the federal government to have taken advantage of the opportunity to do the needful but as I speak, nothing has been done and our members are agitated over the non implementation of their demands. In my branch, it is certain that majority will vote for indefinite strike.’’
Recently, Dutse, on September 6 described as unfortunate the non implementation of the demands which has resulted in low productivity, low morale, brain drain and low enrolment of students into polytechnics.
Said he: ’’ These challenges have to a great extent created avoidable suspicion and tension in our sector where many institutions are finding it increasingly difficult to run a stable academic calendar. It is pertinent for the government to give prompt attention to the plight of the sector with convincing political will and sincerity, in order to ensure enduring industrial peace’’.