ollowing the latest meeting between striking lecturers and the federal government, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has accused the government of rejecting a salary package arrived at through collective bargaining.
TheNewsGuru.com (TNG) reports ASUU as saying it is a retrogressive step for a democratic government to abrogate the collective bargaining principle after more than forty years of its introduction into the Nigerian University System.
ASUU President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, following Tuesday’s meeting on Thursday issued a statement in which he disclosed that the 1981 FGN-ASUU Agreement, under Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s administration, established the principle of collective bargaining.
Prof Osodeke explained that it was based on the Wages Boards and Industrial Council’s Decree No 1 of 1973, the Trade Dispute Act (1976), ILO Conventions 49 (1948), 91(1950), 154 (1988) and recommendation 153 (1981), Udoji Commission Report of 1974, and Cookey Commission Report of 1981.
Osodeke stated that the principle of collective bargaining also provided a platform for resolving such important issues as special Salaries and Conditions of Service of University Staff, University Funding, roles of Pro-Chancellors, Vice-Chancellors, and National Universities Commission (NUC). A key outcome was a special salary scale for university staff known as University Salary Structure (USS).
The ASUU President further disclosed that, however, at the commencement of the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement on 16th March 2017, both the Federal Government and ASUU Teams agreed to be guided by the following principles as their terms of reference:
(i) Reversal of the decay in the Nigerian University System, in order to reposition it for its responsibilities in national development; (ii) Reversal of the brain drain, not only by enhancing the remuneration of academic staff, but also by disengaging them from the encumbrances of a unified civil service wage structure; (iii) Restoration of Nigerian Universities, through immediate, massive and sustained financial intervention; and (iv) Ensuring genuine university autonomy and academic freedom.
Osodeke, meanwhile, disclosed that: “At the resumed meeting of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) 2009 Agreement Re-negotiation Committee on Tuesday, 16th August, 2022, the Government Team presented an “Award” of a Recommended Consolidated University Academic Salary Structure (CONUASS) prepared by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) to ASUU. ASUU firmly rejected and still rejects the “Award””.
He further stated: “Government’s surreptitious move to set aside the principle of collective bargaining, which is globally in practice, has the potential of damaging lecturers’ psyche and destroying commitment to the university system. This is, no doubt, injurious to Nigeria’s aspiration to become an active player in the global knowledge industry.
“Rejecting a salary package arrived at through collective bargaining is a repudiation of government’s pronouncements on reversing “brain drain”. It is common knowledge that, more now than in the 1980s and 1990s, Nigerian scholars, especially in scarce areas like science and medicine, are migrating in droves to Europe, America and many parts of Africa such as South Africa, Rwanda, and Ghana with supportive environment to ply their trades as well as competitive reward systems for intellectual efforts. Does the Nigerian government care about what becomes of public universities in another five or ten years if this trend continues?
“FGN’s repudiation of collective bargaining is in bad faith. It is a retrogressive step for a democratic government to abrogate the collective bargaining principle after more than forty years of its introduction into the Nigerian University System. The ILO’s Policy Guide on Collective Bargaining stipulates that “The principle of negotiation in good faith takes the form in practice of various obligations on the parties involved, namely: (i) recognizing representative organizations; (ii) endeavouring to reach agreement; (iii) engaging in real and constructive negotiations; (iv) avoiding unjustified delays in negotiation; and (v) mutually respecting the commitments made and the results achieved through bargaining” (ILO 2015, p. 14). Hence it could be safely concluded that FGN’s renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement with ASUU between March 2017 and June 2022 has been done in bad faith.
“Government imposed the ongoing strike action on ASUU and it has encouraged it to linger because of its provocative indifference. The Munzali Jibril-led renegotiation committee submitted the first Draft Agreement in May 2021 but government’s official response did not come until about one year later! Again, i the “Award” presented by the Nimi Briggs-led Team came across in a manner of take-it-or-leave-it on a sheet of paper. No serious country in the world treats their scholars this way.
“Over the years, particularly since 1992, the Union has always argued for and negotiated a separate salary structure for academics for obvious reasons. ASUU does not accept any awarded salary as was the case in the administration of General Abdulsalam Abubakar. The separate salary structures in all FGN/ASUU Agreements were usually the outcome of Collective Bargaining processes.
“The major reason given by the Federal Government for the miserly offer, paucity of revenue, is not tenable. This is because of several reasons chief of which is poor management of the economy. This has given rise to leakages in the revenue of governments at all levels. There is wasteful spending, misappropriation of fund and outright stealing of our collective patrimony. ASUU believes that if the leakages in the management of the country’s resources are stopped, there will be more than enough to meet the nation’s revenue and expenditure targets without borrowing and plunging the country into a debt crisis as is the case now.
“The New Draft Agreement has other major recommendations for the funding of major components of the renegotiated 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement. One of such recommendations is the tax on cellphone and communication lines. Ironically, the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning recently announced its readiness to implement ASUU’s recommendation, as a revenue source, but not for education, without acknowledging the Union!
“Our prayer: Where there is will, there will be way. The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Education, should return to the New Draft Agreement of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Renegotiation Committee whose work spanned a total of five and half years as a demonstration of good faith. Thank you”.
While the ASUU President has accused the government of imposing the ongoing strike action on ASUU and encouraged it to linger because of its provocative indifference, the Minister of Education Adamu Adamu has said Nigerian students should hold the union responsible.
Adamu on Thursday at the 47th Session of the State House Ministerial Briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja said ASUU should compensate students for the time wasted during the period of the strike.
He also said the government will not concede to the union’s demand to pay lecturers their emoluments for the six months of no academic activities. Adamu suggested that the affected students should “take ASUU to court” to claim damages incurred over the strike period.
According to him, the Federal Government bears no liability to compensate millions of students grounded for six months over lost time. He also said if the students are determined to get compensated, they should take ASUU to court.
Tertiary unions except ASUU accept FG’s offers to suspend strikes – FG
lso, the federal government has said all striking tertiary institutions’ based unions except Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have accepted its offers to call off their strikes by next week.
Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, who revealed this at the weekly briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team, said ASUU insisted that its members must be paid for the period of the strike.
According to him, the insistence by ASUU on being paid six months salaries of the strike period is what is stalling the negotiations between the Federal Government and the union.
He, however, said that government also insisted on implementing its ‘no work no pay rule’ to serve as deterrence to other unions who might embark on strike action in future.
”If you think it is for the government other than what the government is doing in the university to stop strike, the standard government has taken now is not to pay the months in which no work was done.
”I think this is the only thing that is in the hands of government to ensure that there is penalty for some behaviour like this.
”So, I believe teachers will think twice before they join strike if they know that at the end they are not going to be paid and the federal government is not acting arbitrarily.
”Before, it was some magnanimity on its part, there is a law which says if there is no work, there will be no pay. I believe this will be a very strong element that will be determining from going on strike,” he said.
Adamu also expressed the hope that all other unions like Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, (SANNU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Education and Associated Institutions, (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) will resume work in the next one week.
The minister also dismissed media report that the president gave him two-week ultimatum to resolve the misunderstanding between ASUU and the Federal Government.
The minister further disclosed that the Federal Government had spent over N6 trillion on revamping the country’s education sector in the last seven years. He said the money was spent on the provision of infrastructure and Information Communication Technology equipment to public institutions of learning across the country.
“The implementation of the sector’s blueprint is on course. In the last seven years, we have undertaken massive physical development of infrastructure, ICT development at all levels of our educational system, established new institutions, improved the carrying capacity of our institutions and expanded access to quality education at all levels.
“Steps are also being taken to accelerate the implementation of the 2020 presidential approval for the revitalisation of the teaching profession. The government of President Buhari has expended a total of N6, 300, 947, 848, 237 on capital and recurrent expenditure in the education sector in the last seven years,” he said.
The minister pledged that the government would continue to improve on the implementation of its strategic plans as well as create the necessary environment for the overall development of the education sector in Nigeria.
Adamu announced that all states of the federation could now boast of at least a federal university and polytechnic in each of them.
“This administration has ensured that all states of the federation now have a federal university and a federal polytechnic, with nine universities, nine polytechnics and six colleges of education established between 2018 and today. This administration is determined to ensure that they take off very well that is why provisions have been made for all of them,’’ he said.
The minister highlighted that the basic and secondary level of education had also received attention for the current administration, with about N553 billion spent in the process.
“When we look at basic and secondary education, the ministry has invested heavily in the construction, renovation and rehabilitation of classrooms, hostels and laboratories as well as some other issues like security and other infrastructural facilities at the basic and secondary levels.
“In the last seven years, a total of N553, 134, 967, 498.50 had gone into the development of infrastructure at basic and secondary school levels,’’ he added.
He lamented that the emergence of COVID-19 affected the timing of final examinations for secondary school leavers. He, however, assured that everything would go back to normal from next academic session.
“In an effort to correct the distortions, we had to reschedule our National Examinations which have already been taken.
“I am glad to announce that we will resume our normal examination schedules in the next academic session. Nigeria is the first country in the West African Region to achieve this and other countries are copying our model,’’ he said.
On whether the Nigerian students deserve compensation from the Federal Government for the time wasted from the six-month ASUU strike, Adamu it was duty bound on ASUU to compensate the affected students.
According to him, the Federal Government bears no liability to compensate the students grounded for six months over lost time, saying that if the students are determined to get compensated, they should take ASUU to court.
He, therefore, advised the affected students to “take ASUU to court” for damages incurred over strike period.