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Strike looms as SSANU, NASU give FG July 4 ultimatum over outstanding salaries

NASU/SSANU strike: FG sets up Committee to harmonize payment of salaries

Members of the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities and the Non- academic Staff Union of Universities NASU, on Tuesday gave the federal government up to Thursday, July 4, to settle all outstanding arrears, failing which will lead to fresh industrial action by the unions.

A statement by SSANU after the 48th regular national executive committee meeting, in Benin city, Edo state, listed ten areas which they insist must be addressed by the federal government.

The statement signed by Mohammed Ibrahim, the national President of SSANU listed the payment of its four months withheld salary arrears, three months arrears of President Bola Tinubu’s wage award, as well as renegotiation of the 2009 agreements.

Read also: FG meets SSANU, NASU, NAAT leaders over strike

Others areas of disputes include universities fundings, the ongoing new Minimum Wage negotiations, as well,as the newly reconstituted governing council of the universities.

The associations which plans to meet on Thursday, 4th July, said it’s members will down tools on that day, unless the federal government takes necessary steps to address their demands.

According to the statement, “ NEC in session once again expresses utmost dismay at the unprecedented level of Government’s insensitivity and deliberate resolve to cause chaos in the university system by adopting the divide and rule policy to set Unions on a collision course through preferential treatment of one union over others.

The statement said SSANU and other unions were compelled by Government to embark on strike in 2022 over Government’s refusal to honour a collective Bargaining Agreement willingly signed by all parties. “At the end of the strike, the then Buhari Government further signed an elaborate agreement among which was the non victimization clause.

Read also: SSANU, NASU direct members to begin nationwide strike Monday, over witheld salaries

However, Government made a selective payment of the withheld salaries. While we do not begrudge the payment made to our colleagues, we expected same gesture to be extended to SSANU and NASU that legally complied with all procedures before embarking on the Industrial action.

The statement noted that despite all promises and media hypes by the Ministers of Education and Labour, including the House of Representatives to pay these arrears, Government has continued to dribble SSANU, even after the mutual agreement to suspend the one week warning strike in March this year.

“NEC in session deliberated on the matter and unanimously approved a long drawn comprehensive industrial action after concurrence with the Joint Action Committee meeting of SSANU and NASU scheduled for Thursday 4th July, 2024, if Government fails to pay the four months salary arrears”

The SSANU President said they deliberated on the irregular payment of N35,000 wage award to federal civil servants primarily meant to cushion the agonising effects of fuel subsidy removal pending the approval and implementation of a new National minimum wage.

“The gross inability of the wage award to heal the excruciating financial wounds is further compounded by its stoppage in Federal Universities with three months arrears already pending.

He noted that many states are yet to effect payment of the wage award to our members in state universities thereby increasing their economic woes.

“NEC therefore calls on the Federal Government to immediately resume the payment of the Wage Award alongside the accrued three months arrears without further delay. NEC also calls on State Governments that are yet to commence payment of the Award to commence payment with the arrears accruing therefrom”

On the new minimum wage, the statement said “ NEC is seriously peeved and irritated by the dodgy and slow pace of Government concluding the negotiation on the New National Minimum wage.

“The cost of living has skyrocketed due to hyper-inflation making it near impossible for workers to cope with the current economic situation. NEC therefore requests Government to comply with the demands of labour and hasten the process of negotiation, approval and implementation of a New National Minimum wage to be domesticated by both states, local governments and the organised private sector. If this is not urgently done, SSANU will join forces with other labour unions to shut down the system.

The Union recalled the meeting of the Southern Governors Forum, where they resolved to be allowed to discuss with unions on how to pay the wage based on availability of funds.

“NEC further noted that the issue of NMW is on the Exclusive Legislative List and not on the Concurrent List, and so the Federal Government is to decide on an acceptable NMW.
“SSANU therefore rejects in strong terms the proposal of the Southern Governors Forum in negotiating the NMW with their respective state labour centres.

They described the federal government response to the 2009 agreements renegotiation as “clay footed”, adding that the issue of re-negotiation of the 2009 Agreement has been recurrent on the deliberations of the Union.

“NEC in session calls on Government to as a matter of urgency reconstitute a new Committee for the renegotiation of the SSANU/FGN 2009 Agreement as the issue is long overdue. SSANU has earnestly offered itself for the renegotiation process to continue and awaits the invitation of the Federal Government on the issue without further delay.

On the recently constituted Governing Councils of Federal Universities, the body said while they applaud the gesture, “NEC frowns at the non appointment of Educationist & experienced Technocrats who could have contributed better to the development of our citadels of learning”

“NEC in session observed with dismay the refusal of Government both at Federal and State levels to adequately fund existing universities making some of them mere shadows of glorified secondary schools.

“Many of these universities especially at the state level face challenges of course accreditation, while in some cases staff languish in abject poverty due to non-payment of salaries for several months.

“Our members in Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma and Abia State University, Uturu are sordid examples among others where our members’ welfare are neglected in the midst of this strangulating economic realities. Abia State University workers are been owed 13 months salary arrears while those in Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma are being selectively paid.
NEC therefore requests Government of the affected states to as a matter of urgency pay our members in these universities”

The Union also frowned at failures by both Federal and State universities to adequately fund existing universities making some of them mere shadows of glorified secondary schools.

According to them. “ Many of these universities especially at the state level face challenges of course accreditation, while in some cases staff languish in abject poverty due to non-payment of salaries for several months.

They listed the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma and Abia State University, Uturu as “sordid examples among others where our members’ welfare are neglected in the midst of this strangulating economic realities. Abia State University workers are been owed 13 months salary arrears while those in Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma are being selectively paid.

“NEC therefore requests Government of the affected states to as a matter of urgency pay our members in these universities to cushion the effects of the hash and biting economic realities in the country, and also calls on Government at state levels to make adequate provision for Universities in their annual budgets to take care of vital needs of the institution and staff. Moreso, governments at all levels are advised to desist from establishing new universities to satisfy political interest even when they find it difficult to adequately fund existing ones”

The Union also frowned at the increasing challenges of insecurity nationwide and its attendant grave consequences are incalculable. There are daily reports and other unreported cases of armed robbery, which kidnapping for ransom and endless wanton killing of innocent citizens by unknown gunmen, bandits and boko haram criminals.

“The university community is not also spared of this malaise, last week, a Deputy Vice Chancellor of Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto was attacked and killed by these marauding criminals while on transit. Insecurity has gradually crippled social and economic activities nationwide.

“NEC in session therefore urges Government to adopt drastic measures in combating this monster before it finally grinds the country to a halt.

“NEC in session frowns at the new wave of obnoxious policy-smuggle that is rearing its ugly head in the university system. University workers are public and not civil servants. It will therefore be a gross error and aberration for the civil service rules to be exported to govern university as is been muted by Management of the Enugu and Abia State Universities.

“We therefore call on the Governments of Enugu and Abia States, and indeed others thinking of implementing civil service rules in the university system to desist forthwith with the idea.

“NEC noted recently the plan by Government to borrow from the contributory Pension Funds to fund national infrastructure. This clearly negates the idea behind the Contributory Pension Scheme, where the hard earned monies of workers were deducted for safe keeping to enable them have something to fall back on at retirement.

“NEC has also observed that our members are left to suffer for months without payment of their gratuities even after meeting all requirements by their PFAs, leading to various dehumanizing conditions and in some cases death”.