Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The federal government’s negotiating team and the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will resume negotiations today to iron out their differences over the application of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and the proposed release of N30 billion university revitalisation fund.
However, THISDAY investigation gathered that government’s meeting with the organised labour over the review of the contentious electricity tariff scheduled for yesterday did not hold because of the disruptions caused by the #EndSARS protests, which did not allow the committee to inspect the electricity distribution companies (Discos).
Confirming the planned resumption of the talks to THISDAY yesterday, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said: “The contentious issues have virtually been addressed except for IPPIS and revitalisation fund, which ASUU opted to go and consult its organs.”
He said government was working on the gazetting of the visitation panel for the universities and reconstitution of negotiating team, adding that announcement will be made on both issues this week.
However, there are indications that today’s meeting between ASUU and the federal government team may be deadlocked again unless President Muhammadu Buhari intervenes to order payment of salaries to lecturers based on old GIFMIS platform pending when UTAS is ready for use.
At their last meeting on Thursday, both parties had disagreed on two key issues, revitalisation fund and how to handle payment of salaries to ASUU members pending the conclusion of an ongoing test run on the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
THISDAY learnt that ASUU had shifted ground at the last meeting by requesting that the federal government provides N110 billion, half of the N220 billion it demanded as revitalisation fund for federal universities.
But the government said it cannot afford that with the present state of the economy.
Ngige had reminded ASUU of the position of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) with regard to “ability to pay” as a cardinal principle of collective bargaining agreement.
The source said ASUU agreed with the government’s offer of N30 billion as earned allowances but said the amount should be for only lecturers.
However, the federal government rejected ASUU’s demand to be given the N30 billion for lecturers alone, saying that all other unions in the university system should also receive payment from the money.
On revitalisation fund, a source privy to the meeting said: “The federal government is not ready to accede to ASUU’s demand for N110 billion now because it was part of the 2013 agreement that is now being renegotiated. That was why the government is offering things of good faith, like the payment of earned allowance pending when the committee saddled with the responsibility of identifying other alternative sources of funding concludes their work.”
For the two issues, ASUU team was asked to go and consult more with the union members and come back today for further deliberation.
On the implementation of the IPPIS, which almost stalled the meeting, the federal government said IPPIS should be allowed to operate in the interim until the test-run on UTAS is concluded.
But ASUU wanted payment of outstanding salaries on old GIFMIS platform before the implementation of UTAS.
Meanwhile, the meeting between the organised labour and government side to review parameters used in arriving at the contentious cost-reflective electricity tariff has been postponed.
A source close to the electricity tariff review committee told THISDAY yesterday that they were yet to meet or undertake scheduled visits to the discos across the country due to the #EndSARS protests.