FG Declares ASUU Strike Illegal

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There are indications that the conciliatory meeting called by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, to deliberate on the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) ended in deadlock early Wednesday.

A development that may have prompted a declaration of the strike as illegal by the Federal Government.

While the government insists that the demands raised by the union were already being met, ASUU thinks otherwise.

Addressing stakeholders at the meeting, Ngige described the ongoing strike as a clear breach of the law, adding that the union did not go through the normal process before embarking on the industrial action.

He also faulted ASUU’s action, saying it did not give the Federal Government the minimum 14 days strike notice prescribed by the law, prior to the strike.

“I saw their letter in my office on February 18, which is last Friday, and as you know, they started their action on Monday, February 14. So, it is a clear breach of labour laws. There are violations.

“If you must notify us of intending strike action, you give us a minimum of 14 days’ notice. I pointed out to them that we are a country guided by laws. Nobody is above the law. They should obey it”, he said.

Ngige also explained that the Trade Disputes Act permits him to apprehend the strike and having done so, the industrial action should cease.

The meeting between the warring parties may continue on Monday, next week, as Ngige vowed to approach the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) to also intervene.

“By Monday, we would have dealt with some of the issues they are talking about and return to them for further discussion.

We will meet again with them and the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) and we take it from there,” Ngige stated.

The minister noted that Tuesday’s meeting discussed and touched on all the five-point demand of the union and sorted out four of them with timelines for action.

He had also explained that the demands were not new areas, but issues already being addressed by the Federal Government since last year. He said, “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 (EAA). 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 was a committee we empaneled in the Federal Ministry of Education to take it up because they are their direct employer.

That committee was headed by Prof. Manzali and there was a draft proposal, which Education Ministry has to agree on with them and then break it up to the higher bodies of the government, the Presidential Committee on Salaries (PSC) and from the PSC, it can then go to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval.”

Ngige noted that there are known rates for allowances and any proposal not in sync with what the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) prescribed, would not sail through.

The minister said he made it clear to ASUU that they should follow the normal route and work with the NSIWC and PCS in pursuit of their demands.

“So, if you are talking about duty tour allowances 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. You have to benchmark everybody.

That is why we benchmark even the doctors in that area of hazard allowance.

If you have it that way, you will be able to push it through”, he said. He warned that if ASUU intimidates the Education Ministry or its committee into coming up with things that are not in tandem with the normal rate, then the document would not fly.

He said the meeting agreed that the Ministry of Education should resuscitate the committee within two weeks to look at the draft proposal it had with ASUU, so that they could come up with something for the PSC to have a look and then send it to the FEC.

Recall that ASUU was adamant about the continuation of the strike until government fully addresses demands bordering on revitalisation funds, implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payrolls System (IPPIS), among others.