Uproar as FG stops striking varsity workers’ salary

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From Bimbola Oyesola and Adanna Nnamani, Abuja

Harsh reactions have trailed the reported decision of the Federal Government to invoke the ‘no work, no pay’ policy on striking workers of federal universities with organised labour, university lecturers and parents describing the move as incapable of resolving the crisis.

It was learnt that government might have implemented the policy following the collapse of negotiations and failure of workers to call off the strike.

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But stakeholders in the sector have knocked the government for not exhausting the option of dialogue to resolve the contending issues with the university workers so that schools can resumed for normal academic  work.

Affected by the policy are members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institution (NASU, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).

The unions had launched separate industrial actions to press home their demand for improved working conditions for members and increased funding for public universities.

President of NAAT, Ibeji Nwokoma, who raised the alarm that his union members were not paid full salaries for the month of March, lamented that instead of inviting the striking university workers for dialogue over the contentious issues, the government had gone ahead to implement the ‘no work, no salary ‘ policy.

Reacting yesterday, General Secretary of NASU, Prince Peters Adeyemi, said government cannot flagrantly stop salaries of university workers as the strike followed due process.

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ASUU Chairman, Abuja Chapter. Dr. Kassim Umaru, who confirmed the withholding of salaries, said it was part of government’s plot to intimate the striking workers.

“Of course, since March we have not had a salary; it is no longer news. That is the way the Nigerian government normally intimidates workers. There was a time, especially this very government, that our salaries were stalled for six, seven months because we embarked on a legitimate cause, a patriotic course to salvage the university system. But all we know is that they are keeping our money for us because the nature of our job is clear. If you don’t do the first semester, you cannot go for the second semester. So, whenever they are ready to call us back, by implementing what we agreed on in our MOA, they will go back and pay us our salaries, then we will resume, because we also have a policy of “No pay, no work.”

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Mr. Yemi Yusuf, a parent of three undergraduates of public universities said:  “The Federal Government is trying to worsen an already bad case by enforcing the “No work no pay labour clause” because the system is likely going to collapse totally. Why is it difficult for the FG to keep pacts it signed with varsity lectures? They’re asking for their dues and this strike must not be mischievously misconstrued to mean the government is being blackmailed. Rather than enforce the needless rule of no pay, no work, let the FG fulfil all outstanding obligations it has with ASUU.”

The unions recently lamented that despite all the notices and letters sent to the Federal Government to address their grievances so that the strike is called off, the government has failed to acknowledge the letters or invite them for discussions.

ASUU was the first to launch a four-week warning strike on February 14 which it extended at its expiration alleging the government had failed to address the contentious issues that prompted the strike.

In March, the Joint Action Committee (JAC), comprising the Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institution, NASU, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) followed with a two-week warning strike, which it also extended within the same month, while the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) also embarked on a two-week warning strike later that same month.

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