FG Threatens to Seize Salaries of Striking University Workers
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The federal government has warned that it may implement the law of ‘no work, no pay’ against members of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non Academic Staff Union of Universities and Allied Institutions, who are currently on indefinite strike.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who expressed the government displeasure at the resumed talks with leadership of the two unions in Abuja yesterday, also threatened to drag the non-teaching staff of the universities to either Industrial Arbitration Panel or the Industrial Court.
He said the action of the unions to embark on an indefinite strike while negotiations on their grievances were going amounted to act of intimidation and against international labour law on social dialogue.
Ngige reminded the unions of the fate that befell other unions that tried to force government’s hands during negotiations, saying most their members are waiting to be paid withheld salaries.
The minister said: “There is a provision of the Labour Act which allows workers to go on strike, but there is equally another section of the status which permits the employers to keep his enterprise going by refusing to pay striking workers and to use it to ensure that the organisation is operational to avoid huge loses. If you are embarking on a strike during a negotiation, it is an of intimidation which is against social dialogue principle of the international labour law.”
Ngige told SSANU and NASU leaders that it is left for them to choose to continue with negotiations or opt out so that the government can refer the dispute to the industrial arbitration or industrial court for settlement.
“If you want, there are options left for you, I can transfer this matter to the industrial arbitration or industrial court,” he said.
While speaking for the unions, General Secretary of NASU, Adeyemi Peters, said the non-teaching staff were responding to injustice and cheating meted out to them in the sharing of the N40 billion Earned Allowances.
Peters stated that a situation whereby the government gave N30 billion out of the Earned Allowances to only ASUU with the other unions being made to share N10 billion is not just.
He said the minister was aware of a similar situation in 2017 when ASUU took almost all the amount without considering other union in the university system.
According to him, “You don’t beat a child and ask him not to cry. It is a matter of cheating, and you cannot cheat us and ask us to keep quiet.”
Peters said the strike embarked upon by non-teaching staff was imposed on them by the government’s action, adding they are strike mongers.
He said while the unions repose confidence in the capacity of the minister to ensure that justice is done, they cannot usurp the powers of their members and relevant organs to alter resolutions already reached on the dispute.
Both the government side and the union leaders later went into a closed door session.