By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA —THE Federal Government yesterday warned striking non-teaching staff unions in the universities under the umbrella of Joint Action Committee, JAC, not to push the government to invoke the relevant labour laws against them, if they continued with the strike.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who gave the warning, said the terms of settlement entered into with the unions had been fulfilled.
The minister in a statement signed Deputy Director, Press, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr Samuel Olowookere, said the Federal Government not only fully met all the twelve-point condition raised in the Memorandum of Settlement reached with the unions on September 20, 2017, but also complied faithfully with the timelines for the implementation of the agreement .
He asked the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT, and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU to call off the on-going indefinite strike and make a fresh case in respect of its reservation on the implementation of point one of the agreement concerning the disbursement of the N23 billion Naira Earned Allowances.
Ngige said: “It is important for Nigerians to be informed that the Federal Government has fully complied with its own part of the agreement and asked the non-teaching staff of universities not to blame the Federal Government for what the striking unions termed the “skewed disbursement formula” for the N23 billion Earned Allowances released by the Federal Government.
“The Joint Action Committee of Non-Teaching Staff came with twelve-point demand. We sat over it and agreed on all on September 20, 2017. As I speak, the Federal Government has fully implemented the major contemporary issues such as payment of shortfalls, registration with PENCOM etc. in the agreement.
‘’The only grievance the unions have today is that the modality for the disbursement of the N23 billion the Federal Government released for the settlement of earned allowances is skewed against them.
“But I advised them during the negotiation to call off their strike when it entered the fifth day and quickly forward their own template for accessing this N23 billion meant for the academic and non-academic staff of the universities, since the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, had already submitted. They bluntly refused and dragged the strike for weeks.”
The Minister, however, said that nothing had been lost and urged the unions to make a fresh case for inclusion in the 2018 budget, adding that the Federal Government was willing to address this.
Urging the unions to immediately call off their strike, Ngige flawed the argument that “they only resumed an old strike,” noting that a strike which had been adequately conciliated, called off, and the terms of agreement implemented, would not yield itself as a basis for resumption of the same action.
“If the unions under JAC are embarking on a fresh strike, they are yet to comply with the relevant sections of the Labour Laws for embarking on the action,’’ Ngige argued.
The Minister further warned the unions to stop misguiding their staff members and avoid pushing the Federal Government to a situation where it would invoke the relevant section of the labour laws on No Work, No Pay, saying it would be disastrous in the season of Christmas and end of the year, if implemented.