The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has carpeted the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for the delay in resolving its prolonged industrial action.
Ngige dismissed as baseless and dishonest, the statement by a chapter of ASUU that he was responsible for the prolonged nationwide strike, now in its ninth month
A statement by his media office said out of compassion, the federal government paid ASUU members’ February to June salaries to cushion the effects of COVID-19 on its members and therefore ASUU should rather be held responsible for the delay in resolving the dispute.
He said the federal government further made “every entreaty to them to come on board virtual negotiations, with a view for an early call-off of the strike, to enable students benefit from virtual/online classes, fashionable at the time, and even now, all over the universal academic community, but ASUU bluntly refused.
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“It is rather ASUU, which has bluntly refused to reciprocate the federal government’s offers by refusing to either teach, conduct researches or engage in other academic values for which they are paid that should be held responsible.
“Strangely, ASUU claims ‘patriotism’ as the basis for this prolonged industrial action, forcing every patriot to raise concern over this weird definition of patriotism by ASUU officials.
“November 27, 2020 gentleman agreement with ASUU is not ambiguous. ASUU made a commitment to re-open the universities on or before December 9, 2020 while the Minister of Labour and Employment would get a presidential waiver for ASSU to be paid the rest of their salaries on or before December 9, 2020.
“Indeed, the meeting noted that the Minister of Labour and Employment had consulted with the Minister of Education on getting a waiver on the issue of no-work-no-pay as stipulated in Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN ) 2004 but a reservation has been made concerning this request because of the continued ongoing strike by ASUU.”
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Ngige explained that what the federal government expects of ASUU is to return to work while the government works on the memo for the settlement of the outstanding salaries of July to October insisting, again, that the federal government has fulfilled all the demands over which ASUU went on strike on.
He said: “The visitation panels to the universities have been approved by the president and will swing into action once the universities re-open. The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation on the other hand is also rounding off the gazetting of the panels while the National Universities Commission has received the approved list, which will be published later next week.
“Also, the revival of the Renegotiation Committee for the 2009 ASUU/FG Agreement demanded by ASUU has been set up by the Ministry of Education with Prof. Munzali as Chairman, replacing the ex-chairman, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN).
“The new committee is currently meeting.
“Similarly, government has also acceded to a hybrid payment platform, which is not hundred per cent IPPIS for the payment of salaries and earned academic allowances/earned allowances, pending the result and conclusion of the integrity and usability test on the University Transparency and Accountability Solutions (UTAS) by the National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA)”
The minister also denied ASUU’S claim that the government was the one delaying the negotiations to end the strike as two of its recent scheduled meetings were postponed.
“How does government bending backward to reconsider the plight of strikers, and stepping aside no-work-no-pay as contained in Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN )2 004 to pay the salaries of university teachers who refused to teach for nine months look absurd?
“ASUU members are not above the law of the land, more so when some of them are law teachers and industrial relations experts and are, therefore, expected to know better.
“Need, therefore, for students, parents and all Nigerians to evaluate the insouciance and so-called patriotism of ASUU against the determined efforts of the federal government towards the re-opening of the universities.”
Read updates on ASUU Strike here.