The non-academic university workers have described as insensitive and laughable the threat by the Nigerian government to apply the ‘no work, no pay’ employment clause over the current strike by the workers.
The minister of labour, Chris Ngige, had warned the three striking unions, NASU, SSANU and NAAT, to stop teleguidng their members to confront the government via the industrial action.
Mr. Ngige had also warned the workers not to push the government to invoke the clause as it would adversely affect the workers spending power during the Yuletide.
The spokesperson of SSANU, Abdussobur Salaam, criticised the minister’s position on Wednesday in an interview.
Mr. Salaam also said none of the items in the Memorandum of Terms of Settlement the unions had with the government has been resolved.
He said Mr. Ngige’s arguments lacked merit because he could not justify the methods and framework used in sharing the earned allowances recently released by the government..
“We no longer call it allocations because allocations follow guidelines. What we have seen is that this process did not follow guidelines and the templates were discarded. We wrote demanding explanations since 14th November and only went on strike on 1st December. Was that not enough time for government to respond? As far as we are concerned, government must hold itself liable for this strike,” he said.
He also said the minister should avail the unions a copy of the service wide circular from the National Salaries and Wages Commission which gave specific directives in respect of the university staff schools.
“As chief conciliator, one would have expected him to invite us and listen to our grievances first, before making a position, that is if it is necessary for him to do so. To threaten us would imply that he assumed that we just love going on strike. Does he assume that we go on strike for the fun of it? If there is no reason, would we go on strike?
“The letter from Salaries and Wages was to be issued within four weeks. Till today, almost two thousand of our members from the university schools are still languishing and waiting for a letter that would reabsorb them and include their names in the university’s budget in line with the National Industrial Court judgement,” he said.
According to him, December 5 marks exactly one year that the judgement was given.
“Isn’t it a shame that a government that prides itself to be run under the rule of law can still be prevaricating after a judgement of court has been issued? We insist that those who seek to embarrass this government are from within. We have no less than two thousand of staff who have not been paid salaries since 2014 and yet, the minister can be pontificate about no work, no pay.”
Speaking on the allegation of union leaders misleading their members, Mr. Salaam said the members had independent minds of their own capable of making decisions without cohesion by their leaders.
“As far back as two weeks ago, universities such as UI and Ife had reacted spontaneously to the allocations made in their respect. Our people are not fools or illiterates who cannot recognise injustices when meted out to them. As leaders, we tried to quell their angers but they turned against us,” he said.
“For us, until this matter is resolved, no work no pay notwithstanding, it is a case of no retreat no surrender! The government should not test our resolve because our members have been pushed to the wall. We have been deceived by government and have totally lost confidence in its ability to ensure peace in the university system. We stand by our position and will not back down, regardless of any proclamation of no work no pay”, he said.
Meanwhile, the minister of education, Adamu Adamu, in an interview with state house correspondent after the Federal Executive Committee, FEC, meeting on Wednesday insisted the issues between the unions and federal government have been resolved.
“As far as I am concerned, these things had been addressed before I left and the formula that was used to share the money was agreed by them. They sat down with the officials in the Ministry of Education and agreed. So the money was not for ASUU alone, it was for all the unions,” Mr Adamu said despite the repeated public stance of the non-academic staff that that claim was false.
According to the minister, the shortfall in payment of salaries is being addressed but the issue of the teachers in university staff schools will take sometime.
“Government has accepted the Court verdict that says they should be reinstated and they will be reinstated. I think the only issue before I left was that they will be in salary relevant to what they are doing. They are not university staff, so they will just be receiving normal salaries,” he said.
The three unions commenced an indefinite strike on Monday, accusing the government of violating an earlier agreement on the sharing pattern of earned allowances recently disbursed by it.