FG to revisit ‘no work, no pay’ as VCs push to end strike

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• FG announces 23.5% salary rise for lecturers
• VCs committee push for 50% increase
• Adamu: We have done our best to end strike
• Buhari raises committee to look into ASUU’s demands
• Akabueze: Petrol subsidy funds can be channeled to ASUU, increase workers’ pay
• Anglican bishop to ASUU: FG not ready for you, return to class
• Let’s declare three-day strike, labour leader tells NLC, TUC
• Kano moves to pull out of seven months strike
• Management can’t force us to resume, Kaduna lecturers insist

In a move to end the seven months closure of public varsities in the country, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, yesterday, said government could only afford 23.5 per cent salary increase for lecturers, while a 35 per cent increment will be enjoyed by professors, as its last effort to break the industrial dispute between varsity teachers and the Federal Government.

This was fallout of the meeting between government, pro-chancellors and vice chancellors of federal universities aimed at finding lasting solutions to the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the National Universities Commission (NUC) in Abuja.

The union has been on strike since February 14 over revitalisation of public universities, payment of earned academic allowances and deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) for payment of university lecturers’ salaries, among others. Amid the strike, government had invoked the ‘No work, No pay’ policy.

The Minister, who noted that President Muhammadu Buhari warned against signing agreements that the government will not be able to meet, said the only issue yet to be resolved with ASUU is the position of the law on ‘No work, No pay.’

He said: “The Federal Government can only afford a 23.5 per cent salary increase for all category of the workforce in federal universities, except for the professorial cadre, which will enjoy a 35 per cent upward review.

“Henceforth, allowances that pertain to ad-hoc duties of the academic and non-academic staff shall be paid as and when due by the Governing Councils of universities to which such services are rendered and to the staff who perform them.

“Also, a sum of N150 billion shall be provided for in the 2023 budget as funds for the revitalisation of federal universities, to be disbursed to the institutions in the first quarter of the year, and a sum of N50 billion shall be provided for in the 2023 budget for the payment of outstanding arrears of earned academic allowances, to be paid in the first quarter of the year.”

At the meeting, the Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU) urged government to pay university professors N800,000 as against the N1.2 million negotiated by the Nimi Briggs committee. This recommendation will represent a 50 per cent salary increase offer, as against the 23 per cent increase being proposed by the Federal Government.

While making efforts to end the strike, the committee further set up a sustainable peace team of elders to resolve the lingering disagreement. Secretary-General of CVCNU and co-ordinator of the team, Prof. Michael Faborode, said their goal was not to allow the current impasse in the ASUU strike continue, as its toll on all stakeholders and the nation had become colossal.

Faborode said to arrive at the final list, no serving vice chancellor or pro-chancellor is included and membership was based on the record of service as recorded by the CVCNU.

The Minister insisted that government has made every effort to resolve the concerns ASUU is clinging on to for the protracted strike.

He said: “We have done the best we can in the circumstance. After inter-ministerial consultations and rounds of hard negotiations with all government agencies, we interacted with the unions. I personally, gave it all it required to resolve the current challenges.

“I met the unions anywhere and everywhere possible with facts, figures and with absolute sincerity. For example, I directly met with ASUU leadership in my house, in my office and at the ASUU Secretariat on several different occasions, in addition to other formal engagements going on.

“To be frank with all the unions, especially with ASUU, one major issue over which government and the unions could not reach amicable agreement was the issue of the law on ‘No work, No pay.’ In the spirit of sincerity, government made it clear that it would not break the law and lecturers would not be paid for the period they stayed away from work,” he said.

The lecturers had kicked against this as the strike lingered, but at the meeting yesterday, Adamu announced that the Federal Government had set up a committee to revisit the issue.

Members of the committee are Prof. Nimi Briggs, chairman, ASUU/FG negotiation team; Prof. Olu Obafemi, chairman, Governing Council, Federal University, Minna and Udo Udoma, former Minister of Budget and National Planning.

Others include Prof. Bashir Dalhatu, an elder statesman; Prof. Kabiru Bala, Vice Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Prof. Kayode Adebowale, Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan and Prof. Lilian Salami, Vice Chancellor, University of Benin.

Also, Prof. Duro Oni, the President, Academics of letters; Prof. Akinsanya Osibogun, President, Academics of Medicine and the President of Academic of Science made the list.

Prof. Charles Igwe, Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, JAMB Registrar and Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC) are also included.

He said the committee would look into the additional demands ASUU is making, particularly, the areas where there was no consensus.

While he could not give the time frame for the committee to work, he said giving the atmosphere in the meeting, they are looking at days. He, however, said they are not jettisoning the Briggs committee, but that it is in continuation of what the committee did.

On whether there will be a review of the government’s position on ‘No work, No Pay,’ he said: “There has been an appeal generally for the system to take a second look at that and that is what the committee will look into.”

Earlier, the Minister said: “Government should not, in the guise of resolving current challenges, sow seeds for future disruptions.

“For me, the past two weeks have been a very dark period of personal anguish and internal turmoil. I used to deceive myself that in a climate of frankness, and with mutual goodwill, it will fall to my lot to bring an end to the incessant strikes in the education sector. This has not proved possible – or, at least, not as easy, quickly and straightforward, as I used to think,” he said.

The Minister, however, noted that the statement by ASUU president that the union would no longer negotiate with the current Federal Government must be resisted.

He said: “Government and ASUU have no option than to continue talking until our universities have reopened their doors to students, who, clearly, are the principal victims of the seemingly unending strikes. In the circumstances, therefore, all Councils and Senates of our Universities are enjoined to rise up to their responsibilities.”

Speaking at the end of the meeting, the pro-chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Prof. Peter Okebukola, noted that government was ready to go all out to ensure that the university lecturers return to classes.

MEANWHILE, Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, has said the trillions spent on fuel subsidy in the country can be used to end ASUU strike and increase the pay of government staff.

Speaking on Arise TV’s Global Business Report, yesterday, he said: “The truth is public servants need to be paid far better than they are now. It’s like the ongoing issue regarding ASUU and the pay for lecturers.

“I haven’t come across anyone in government who thinks that lecturers are adequately paid or who thinks lecturers should not be paid significantly more. The crux of the (ASUU) matter is the ability to pay. It is why this matter has dragged on, because government has refused to commit to a number that it does not have the ability to pay.”

When asked if petrol subsidy could be redirected to ASUU and increase the pay of government workers, Akabueze replied: “There’s no doubt that when you eliminate fuel subsidies or cut back on it, there will be an immediate impact on people.

The Anglican Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Anambra State, Rt. Rev. Ndubuisi Obi, has, however, advised striking lecturers to return to classrooms to save the university education from total collapse.

The Bishop, who spoke, yesterday, in Nnewi, ahead of the 2022 Diocesan Synod, said the current government lacked the capacity of performing beyond its current achievements. He said the best option was for Nigerians to exercise patience as they prayerfully wait for the emergence of a better administration.

According to him: “When you’re talking and those you’re talking to are not listening, I think the best thing is to keep quiet, until and when another government comes in, you can start talking again.

“Experience has shown us there’s no need flogging a dead horse. The truth is that the present government has failed. That’s why I’m quarreling with ASUU. Why are you striking when those you’re striking for don’t even understand what you’re doing?”

Further, the immediate past chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Oyo State, Andrew Emelieze, has called on Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the TUC to urgently declare a three-day warning strike and start mobilisation in earnest to press home for an end to the protracted strike. Emelieze, who is the convener of All Workers’ Convergence, made the call yesterday in Ibadan.

The labour leader also called on the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and the civil society to rally round the labour movement in this regard.

According to Emelieze, all that is needed to be done has been done to negotiate with government on the protracted strike. It is obvious now that what is left is collective negotiation through a three-day national warning strike to commence from Monday, September 12 to 15.

‘’The NLC had earlier declared a two day national protest in solidarity with ASUU, it is time for labour to make real her resolution to call for a warning strike as government has continued to fail in addressing the demands of ASUU.”

CONCERNED by the impact of ongoing industrial action and its negative implications, Kano State government has begun move to pull the state-owned institutions out of the nearly seven months strike.

Consequently, the state executive council directed the Commissioner for Higher Education, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice and the state Head of Service to convey an emergency meeting with the leadership of the union in the two state institutions – Aliko Dangote and Yusuf Maitama Sule Universities – to resolve possible bottlenecks.

Commissioner for Higher Education in Kano, Dr. Mariya Mohmoud Bunkure, who disclosed the determination to end ASUU strike in Kano, noted that government would deploy necessary mechanism to convince ASUU to return to class.

THE Kaduna State branch of ASUU has said the school management cannot force lecturers to resume academic activities. Reacting to a statement issued by the Kaduna State University (KASU) management, which threatened ASUU to resume work or face sanctions, the union said no threats will force members to suspend the industrial action backed by constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The union branch chairman, Dr. Peter Adamu, stated that the strike was legitimate and backed by national and international laws.

According to Adamu, “there is no section of the law of KASU or Staff Condition of Service that stipulates any form of sanction on lecturers participating in an action that will benefit the university,” Adamu stressed.

He added: “The strike action is for the betterment of the university system and Kaduna State University inclusive. If you take your time and visit the school, you will see that most of the buildings we have there are all products of this kind of struggle.”

TheGuardian

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