Normal life and academic activities in Nigeria’s universities will be disrupted by workers’ industrial action from today. The three non-academic staff unions have declared a trade dispute over failure of government to keep to the terms of its own agreement with the workers and has decided to go on an indefinite strike.
The industrial action is coming at a time teachers, under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), have returned to the classroom after a series of disputes with the Federal Government over previously agreed welfare packages and funding.
Non-teaching staff are now raising the same issues. President of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Mr. Samson Igwoke, who also chairs the Joint Action Committee of the three unions — comprising SSANU, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) — said in Abuja yesterday that the strike would begin in all Federal Government-owned universities today (Monday).
Igwoke explained that government had not shown seriousness in addressing the same issues that forced the workers to call an industrial action on September11, 2017.
Chief among the complaints lodged by the workers were government’s failure to implement the December 5, 2016 judgment of the National Industrial Court on university staff schools, payment of arrears of earned allowances, arrears of salary shortfalls and funding.
The unions said there were discrepancies in allocation of funds, a gap that was “pointedly” brought to the attention of government but had not been acknowledged by the Ministry of Education.
“For the first time in the history of fund allocations to federal universities, the ministry of Education allocated funds to both the universities and their unions.” Igwoke alleged. He said, “there is disquiet among non-academic unions” regarding the parameters used in arriving at the sharing formula.
For example the unions wondered how the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) got N328 million, while the University of Ibadan was given N105 million (less than one third of FUTA’s).There is even more disquiet on the fate of the University of Lagos which was allocated N23 million.
“The questions that the unions are asking are: Is the staff strength of non-teaching staff in FUTA bigger than that of UI? Or is it that FUTA has 15 times the number of non-teaching staff in University of Lagos?”
The Federal Government had approved N23 billion for payment of arrears of earned allowances of teaching and non-teaching staff in federal universities. It was then agreed that the trade unions under JAC would update the templates already given to the Implementation Monitoring Committee (IMC) and submit them to the Federal Ministry of Education by Thursday September 21, 2017.
The workers also explained that, two months after a memorandum of settlement was signed, the situation that necessitated the strike in September remained unchanged.In declaring the strike, the unions said: “Having considered the sorry situation we find ourselves vis-a-vis the brazen injustice being meted out to us and the refusal of Government to respect the contents of the Memorandum of Terms of Settlements reached with our Unions on the September 20, 2017, we are constrained to inform you that effective 12.00 midnight of Sunday 3rd December 2017, the Joint Action Committee of NAAT, NASU and SSANU shall be resuming its earlier suspended strike.
“The strike action shall be comprehensive and total. There shall be no provision of services, either on skeletal or ad hoc basis. This strike, like others before it, is not our making or desire. No responsible union goes on strike without considering its implications on the system. However, we find ourselves in a sorry plight where strike appears to be the only option.”
The unions had, in announcing the suspension of their previous industrial action on September 21, 2017, given a one-month moratorium within which the Federal Government should address their concerns or they would return to the trenches.
The three unions subsequently resumed work on Monday, September 25, 2017. Monday’s return to the path of war will halt academic work in universities as long as the industrial action lasts, especially as all academic records and home-keeping activities for teachers and students would be kept on hold.