ASUU Rejects FG’s New Salary Offer, Says It’s Miserly

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has rejected what it described as a “miserly offer” of salary increase by the federal government.

In a statement issued on Thursday by the union and signed by its president, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, ASUU accused the government repudiating  a salary package arrived at through a collective bargaining during negotiation.

Consequently, ASUU said: “It firmly rejected and still rejects the ‘award’ of salary by the federal government.”

ASUU said that at the resumed meeting with the federal government’s 2009 Agreement Re-negotiation Committee on Tuesday, the government team presented a recommended Consolidated University Academic Salary Structure (CONUASS) prepared by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) to it which it rejected.

The federal government had, in a statement by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, stated that the proposal made by the Prof. Limi Briggs-led committee in relation to the demands of members of ASUU and other unions in universities would gulp N1.12 trillion to implement which it finds difficult to afford.

Although the union did not specify the new salary offer, ASUU said the reason given by the government for abandoning the earlier proposal by the Prof. Briggs committee is not tenable.

As a way forward, ASUU said: “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 a half years as a demonstration of good faith.”

The union, while rejecting the offer by government, said the reason of lack of funds cannot be justified, alleging that the government is engaging in wasteful spending and misappropriation of funds to the detriment of genuine needs of the people.

ASUU said: “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.

“We believe 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.

“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 10 years if this trend continues?”

It further said that federal governnent’s repudiation of collective bargaining is in bad faith. 

It said it was a retrogressive step for a democratic government to abrogate the collective bargaining principle after more than 40 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,” the union said.

ASUU accused the federal government of imposing the ongoing strike on the lecturers and had encouraged it to linger because of its provocative indifference.

While making its case further, ASUU said the Munzali Jibril-led renegotiation committee submitted the first Draft Agreement in May 2021 but that  government’s official response did not come until about one year later. 

It also said that the salary offer presented by the Briggs-led team came across in a manner of “take-it-or-leave-it on a sheet of paper”. 

The union said it had over the years, particularly since 1992, advocated and negotiated a separate salary structure for academics for obvious reasons. 

It said the separate salary structures in all FGN/ASUU agreements were usually the outcome of collective bargaining processes.

ASUU noted that its demands at the commencement of the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement in 2017, had been on the reversal of the decay in the Nigerian university system and ensuring genuine university autonomy, academic freedom, 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.

It said that it also sought for the restoration of Nigerian universities through immediate, massive and sustained financial intervention in order to reposition it for its responsibilities in national development.

ASUU said the new draft agreement had other major recommendations for the funding of major components of the renegotiated 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement, one of which is the tax on cellphone and communication lines.

However, the union said 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.

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