The Federal Government yesterday threatened to invoke the policy of no work, no pay against the striking non-teaching staff in the universities.
But the non-teaching staff have told the government that it is impossible to beat a child and ask him not to cry, accusing the government of being the motivator of the strike they embarked on.
Recall that the non-teaching staff in the universities under the umbrella of Joint Action Committee, comprising Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, and the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities, SSANU, had embarked on an indefinite strike on February 5, after the expiration of the deadline they gave to the government to attend to their seven points agenda.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the renewed discussion between the Federal Government and the JAC of the two unions, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige warned that the government may be forced to Implement the law on no work, no pay against members of the unions who are currently on indefinite strike.
Senator Ngige, who expressed the government’s displeasure at the resumed talks with the leadership of the two unions in also threatened to drag them to either the Industrial Arbitration Panel or the Industrial Court.
He said that the action of the unions in embarking on an indefinite strike while negotiations on their grievances were ongoing amounted to an act of intimidation and against international labour on social dialogue.
Ngige reminded the unions of the fate that befell other unions that tried to force the government’s hands during negotiations, saying most of their members were waiting to be paid withheld salaries.
According to him:” 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 organization is operational to avoid huge loses.
If you are embarking on strike during a negotiation, it is an act of intimidation which is against social dialogue principle of the international labour law.”
Ngige told SSANU and NASU leaders that it was left for them to choose to continue with negotiations or opt-out so that government can refer the dispute to the industrial arbitration or industrial court for settlement.
He said, “If you want, there are options left for you, I can transfer this matter to the Industrial Arbitration or Industrial Court.”
Reacting, the spokesman of the two unions and General Secretary of NASU, Comrade Adeyemi Peters said that the non-teaching staff was responding to injustice and cheating metted to them in the sharing of the N40 billion Earned Allowances.
Prince Peters said 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 was not just.
He said that the minister was aware of a similar situation in 2017 when ASUU took almost the entire amount without considering other unions in the university system.
He said, “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 that the strike embarked upon by non-teaching staff was imposed on them by government’s action, adding they are strike mongers.
According to him, while the unions repose confidence in the capacity of the minister to ensure that justice was 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.
Non–teaching staff in the universities will today commence indefinite strike over the Federal Government’s handling of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, sharing formula of the N40 billion earned academic allowances and non-payment of arrears of the new minimum wage.
Already, the National Joint Action Committee, JAC, comprising the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities, SSANU and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, has written to the branches to commence strike today.
A copy of the notice signed by SSANU National President, Mohammed Ibrahim, and NASU General Secretary, Prince Peters Adeyemi, was sent to our correspondent on Thursday.
Recall that the JAC had announced that it would proceed on an indefinite strike from February 5 following the alleged failure of the Federal Government to meet its demands.
Other demands include the non-payment of retirement benefits to former members, non-constitution of visitation panels to universities, poor funding of universities, teaching staff usurping the headship of non-teaching units, among others.
In a bid to stop the workers from embarking on strike, the Federal Government team led by Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige met with the leadership of the unions but the meeting ended in a deadlock on Tuesday.
Following the inability of the government to avert the strike through the meeting, a committee was set up to resolve the dispute over the N40 billion earned allowances and complaints about IPPIS.
Part of the notice read: “In view of the outcome of the meeting, the leadership of JAC of NASU and SSANU at the branches are hereby directed to commence joint general meetings on Friday to give reports on the outcome of the conciliation meeting and pass resolutions on the way forward.
“In the meantime, the nationwide strike takes effect from 12 midnight, Friday, February 5, 2021, pending any contrary resolution by the branches.”
Vanguard gathered that out of the seven demands, only the issues of IPPIS and the payment of arrears of the minimum wage were discussed at the meeting.
The government had told the unions that there was no money to pay for the arrears of the minimum wage and that a supplementary budget would be submitted to raise the money.
The Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Polytechnics, SSANIP, has embarked on a 14-day warning strike starting from Jan. 4 to press home their demands.
The directives to embark on the strike is contained in a release signed by the Acting National Secretary of the association, Comrade Emmanuel Enyiegor on Monday in Calabar.
The association said that the reason for the warning strike was occasioned by the constant neglect of the demands of the association by federal and state governments, in spite of several efforts made.
“This is to bring to the attention of all the members that the General Executive Council had on December 17, 2020, approved the commencement of 14-day warning strike with effect from January 4.
“Members are by this notice directed to refrain from going to office from Monday, January 4, 2021.
“We demand the immediate re-evaluation and implementation of NEEDS assessment report and release of funds for the Polytechnic sector without further delay.
“We demand the complete payment of salaries and arrears of minimum wage for staff in the Polytechnic sector starting from the period of implementation in April 2019.
“We demand the release of the scheme of service for Polytechnics immediately. This has been put on hold by the National Board for Technical Education for three years without any concrete explanation,” the release stated.
The association, however, expressed displeasure with the state governments of Benue, Cross River, Abia, Ondo, Ogun, Osun and Kano for their refusal to non-payment of correct outstanding salaries to staff of the Polytechnics and Colleges of Health.
“The union decries the nonchalant attitude of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) to issues of SSANIP as regards salaries of members.
“We demand the constitution of Governing Councils in all federal and state Polytechnics,” the release stated.
Organised labour has been urged to grant NNPC one week grace to consider the reversal of petrol price.
NLC and TUC
The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, on Thursday night reacted to the ultimatum given to it by organised labour.
Recall that Labour had given NNPC one week to reverse petrol price it hiked.
However, the NNPC while reacting, pleaded with Labour to give it one more week to consider its ultimatum.
This is as the National Administrative Council, NAC, of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, will meet on Friday to have a holistic look at the ongoing negotiations with the government.
The organised labour at the meeting with the government team led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha at the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, demanded an immediate reversal of the last increase of fuel price.
Recall that the organized labour had walked out of the meeting with government representatives last week over the same issue, even though the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige had said that there was nothing like walk-out at the meeting, but a normal recess.
At the resumed meeting on Thursday night which entered into early hours of Friday, the NNPC requested for one week to make consultations on the labours insistence for the reversal of the new fuel price increment before discussions could continue.
It was agreed by both the labour and government team that the meeting should be adjourned and to resume on December 7.
Speaking to Vanguard, the Deputy President of the NLC, Comrade Joe Ajaero said that it was believed that on December 7 when the parties will continue with the negotiation, the reversal must have been effected.
According to him, “We took one-week adjournment for them to reverse it (fuel increment) for us to begin discussions because the GMD (Group Managing Director) was saying that he can’t just announce it there, that he needs to do consultations.
“Exactly one week will be next week Friday so the following Monday we will reconvene by 5 pm. We insisted on 2 pm, the Minister said 7 pm but we eventually agreed by 5 pm.
“We insisted on reversal for any other talk to place although we have agreed to brief our organs, the NLC NAC is meeting today (Friday) so we are briefing our NAC, we may have to delay other organs after that Monday if they didn’t announce it.
<p class="has-drop-cap has-vivid-cyan-blue-color has-text-color" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">“That’s why we said we don’t need to be shouting strike….. strike, we need to put our house in order,.”“That’s why we said we don’t need to be shouting strike….. strike, we need to put our house in order,.”
Asked if the management of NNPC consented to labour’s demand for reversal of the fuel increase, he said, “The NNPC GMD asked for the one week, we had wanted it to be announced there.”
At the meeting on Thursday night, President of the NLC Comrade Ayuba Wabba was absent, making it the second consecutive times he was not present at the meeting.
Wabba was absent on the Sunday meeting where the labour team comprising the NLC and the Trade Union Congress, TUC walked out of government in protest of government team’s refusal to reverse the fuel price before the commencement of discussions.
The reason for his absence was not disclosed by his colleagues as at few minutes before 9:00pm when the meeting began.
Before the Thursday night dialogue went behind-closed-doors, the TUC President, Comrade Quadri Olaleye had warned government’s delegation to be sincere with the deliberations to avoid further embarrassment and another deadlocked meeting.
He said , “It will be beneficial when we can agree and disagree constructively on some of the things we have on the table, and have a clear communication even which a layman will understand where we are going. We don’t want this meeting of going front and back every time that is so confusing that we don’t even understand what we are discussing.
“We are here today with an open mind. And if possible, we need to have a lot of recess today but the bottom line is that we must be leaving here today with an agreement”, Olaleye said.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Ngige had in his opening remarks alleged that “agents of darkness had predicted that the meeting will not hold.”
He also said that “it was not really true that anybody walked out on anybody.”
But the Deputy President of NLC, Comrade Ajaero, who stood in for Wabba countered, “We didn’t adjourn peacefully and we didn’t take recess normally.”
The federal government has assured that the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) would soon end.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, spoke on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
He disclosed that the Ministries of Finance, Education, Labour and Employment and the Office of the Accountant General will meet with the union.
“The issue of ASUU will soon come to an end. Two reasons – ASUU have called the Federal Government represented by Finance and the Accountant-General Office and their direct employers, the Ministry of Education to come for the test”, Ngige said.
The nationwide industrial action started in March.
ASUU top officials have repeatedly stated that the strike is still in force.
The body wants implementation of the 2012 agreement.
ASUU is also against government’s insistence that all lecturers must enrol on the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS).
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have suspended the planned nationwide strike and protest that was to commence on Monday, September 28, 2020, over the recent hike in electricity tariff and petrol pump price.
This follows the agreement reached between the Federal Government and the organized labour during the meeting held by both parties which started on Sunday night and dragged on till the early hours of Monday morning.
The disclosure was made by the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, through a tweet post on his twitter handle.
In the agreement between the Federal Government and organized labour, the hike in electricity tariff is to be suspended for a period of 2 weeks, while the new pump price of petrol is to remain unchanged.
Both parties agreed to set up a technical committee on Electricity Tariff reforms, comprising Ministries, Agencies, Departments, NLC and TUC, which will work for a duration of 2 weeks with effect from Monday, September 28, 2020, to examine the justification of the new policy in view of the need for the validation of the basis for the new cost-reflective tariff.
This is due to the conflicting field reports which appear different from the data presented to justify the new policy by NERC, metering deployment, challenges, timelines for massive rollout.
Electricity tariff increase is suspended for 2 weeks
The FG and the Nigerian Labour Unions have agreed to suspend the electricity tariff increase for a period of two weeks.
The Federal Government and the Nigerian Labour Unions have agreed to suspend the electricity tariff increase for a period of two weeks. This was part of the agreement reached between Labour and the Government as they deliberated to avert a nationwide strike that would have grounded an already deteriorating economy.
While the strike was over two major issues, an increase in electricity charges and fuel price respectively, the decision to call off the strike was based on the suspension of the electricity bills. The following terms of reference underpinned the agreement between Labour and the Government.
Terms of reference for suspension of electricity increase for 2 weeks.
Terms of reference “The Terms of Reference (ToR) are as follows: To examine the justification for the new policy on cost-reflective Electricity Tariff adjustments.”
Both parties are to examine the justification for the new policy on cost-reflective tariff adjustment
To look at the different Electricity Distribution Company (DISCOs) and their different electricity tariff vis-à-vis NERC order and mandate.
Examine and advise government on the issues that have hindered the deployment of the six million meters.
To look into the NERC Act under review with a view to expanding its representation to include organized labour.
The Technical sub-committee is to submit its report within two weeks.
During the two weeks, the DISCOs shall suspend the application of the cost-reflective electricity tariff adjustments. “The meeting also resolved that the following issues of concern to Labour should be treated as stand-alone items:
The 40% stake of government in the DISCO and the stake of workers to be reflected in the composition of the DISCOs Boards.
An all-inclusive and independent review of the power sector operations as provided in the privatization MOU to be undertaken before the end of the year 2020, with Labour represented.
That going forward, the moribund National Labour Advisory Council, NLAC, be inaugurated before the end of the year 2020 to institutionalize the process of tripartism and socio dialogue on socio-economic and major labour matters to forestall crisis.
Implications : The decision reached between the government and labour means the service reflective tariff regime which started on September 1, 2020, is effectively suspended. Customers are therefore no longer required to pay the service reflective tariffs and will revert to the previous MYTO tariffs of 2015.
By looking at the “different Electricity Distribution Company (DISCOs) and their different electricity tariff vis-à-vis NERC order and mandate” it appears labour might be looking to recalibrating the tariffs for some Discos.
According to documents on the tariff order published by the NERC, some Discos have tariffs for residential customers that are as high as N62/kWh while it’s just under N54 for others.
Labour could also get involved in determining the veracity of the tariff bands that determines which customers pay what as electricity tariffs.
The Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, have refused to suspend their plan to embark on a nationwide strike on Monday.
The two unions had resolved to go on strike on Monday to protest against the recent hikes in pump price of petroleum and electricity tariff.
But when they met with the house leadership in Abuja on Sunday, Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house, asked the unions to shelve the plan to give room for negotiations.
Present at the meeting is a three-man team from Labour consisting President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba; President The Trade Union Congress (TUC) Quadri Olaleye and NLC Secretary General, Emma Ugboaja.
Ayuba Wabba, and Quadri Olaleye, condemned the government’s delay in reversing the hikes as demanded.
Speaking after the meeting, Wabba said if the issues are not addressed, “all the actions pronounced will be taken as the notice expires tomorrow”.
He, however, commended the house leadership for its intervention.
“We also told him (Gbajabiamila) how the meeting with federal government went and how the meeting was adjourned and he has promised to also intervene at his own level to see that we don’t inflict more pains on Nigerians,” he said.
“In the course of the discussion, we have also realised that the House of Representatives has done a lot on the issue including recommendations which they have shared mutually.”
On the restraining order from the court, Wabba said the organised labour has not been served with any restraining order from a court in respect to the planned strike, and he asked the federal government not to ambush the unions with any court action.
He however noted that “There is a valid judgement of the federal high court stopping the tariff increase and that judgement is still subsisting.”
During the meeting between labour and the lawmakers, Wabba said the proposed strike was in the interest of Nigerians.
To counter Wabba, Gbajabiamila explained why Labour should not go on strike in the interest of Nigerians.
Gbajabiamila, who was at the meeting with Chairman of the House Committee on Labour, Mohammed Wudil and Deputy House Leader, Peter Akpatason, said shutting down economic activities through a debilitating strike will hurt more citizens the Organised Labour is seeking to protect.
He said there could be a different way to arrive at the same result as the legislature and Labour are on the same page, pleading for more time.
Gbajabiamila, however, offerred labour some palliatives which he said would be included in the proposed 2021 budget.
He explained that the budget would soon be presented to the National Assembly, stressing that some palliatives were being considered to cushion the effects of increase in electricity tariff and fuel price hike.
The palliatives, according to the speaker, includes distribution of food items, reduction of taxes on minimum wage and payment of some special allowances.
Others are involvement in ownership of housing programmes through mortgage and distribution of special buses to public institutions which run on auto gas.
Gbajabiamila said that the palliatives would go a long way to assuage the suffering of Nigerians.
He said the lawmakers would also make provision in the budget to tackle the eight million deficit of meters to enable Nigerians to access them.
Gbajabiamila, who described estimated billing as a scam, said: “I have never heard it anywhere in the world, so if we may have to provide for the deficit, we will have to do that.”
He appealed to labour to suspend the planned strike, saying embarking on industrial action at this critical time would not augur well for the citizenry.
“You know, you cannot go on strike at this time, if you go on strike, the people you think you are protecting will be at the receiving end, we share your philosophy regarding workers’ rights.
“We know what Nigerians are going through, our position on electricity billing is obvious, the only thing now is to continue to talk, I am concerned about the people out there.
“Shutting down the markets, banks and other places of work is my worry, I am concerned about the people,” he said.
Gbajabiamila said that there was the need for every Nigerian to be properly metered in order to capture the true cost, adding that the lawmakers would consider metering in the 2021 budget.
The national industrial court in Abuja had granted an order of interim injunction restraining the labour unions from embarking on the strike pending the hearing and determination of a motion before it.
But Emmanuel Ugboaja, NLC general secretary, said in a statement that the unions will go ahead with the strike and asked members to mobilise for a protest.
The Organised Labour in Lagos State has said all sectors would be shut from Monday.
He said airports, banks, and offices would not be allowed to function.
Deputy Vice President, Nigeria Labour Congress, Amaechi Asogwuni, spoke at a news conference on Sunday.
“No airport will be in operation in Nigeria; banks are not expected to function, so no business owners should risk himself, for Nigerian workers have taken that decision”, NAN quoted him as saying.
“We are the workers and we are withdrawing our services; we have the right to do so because protests are our constitutional right. And I believe we will enforce it; schools shall remain closed until this action ends.”
The labour leader appealed to Nigerians to join the protest.
He reminded them that it was part of their quota to democracy.
On the increase in petrol price, Asogwuni said the federal government should have engaged the organised labour and other stakeholders.
“The government did not do that at a time it ought to; it failed in its duty to engage labour before time. On the issue of electricity, the government had earlier had an interaction with labour in Kano and we discouraged it from proceeding.”
As the organized labour prepare for a massive national industrial action to protest the recent hike in PMS price as well as the increase in electricity tariff.
Nigerians have been called upon to come out en masse and participate fully in the national strike in order to force the federal government to reverse the price and tariff.
The call for action was made by a former Senator in the 8th National Assembly from Kaduna State, Senator Shehu Sani while speaking at the commissioning ceremony of the Secretariat of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Federal Polytechnic Bauchi chapter.
The outspoken Senator Shehu Sani said that massive participation of Nigerians in the strike became necessary as the move was for the interest of all Nigerians as well as for the future of the country.
The ASUP Secretariat which was named after late Senator Ali Wakili a Senator in the 8th National Assembly, Senator Shehu Sani noted that, the late lawmaker has worked assiduously towards ensuring good governance, justice and advancement of democracy in Nigeria.
The activist cum politician said that, “In the next few days, the Nigerian Labour Congress will be launching a national protest and strike on behalf of them I call on each and every one of you to respect the strike, because it is for all Nigerians and for the future of the country and it is a strong challenge to the leadership that have forgotten how they came into office.”
He added that, ” I thank the leadership of ASUP in this Polytechnic for recognizing the contribution of late Ali Wakili, the person who worked assiduously for the development of our country and one who have suffered a lot in the hands of people who presided over the affairs of Bauchi state in the past.”
Shehu Sani added that, “It is a honor and privilege for me to be here invited to witness the first attempt made by a group of academics to honor Distinguished Senator in the person of late Ali Wakili. I am here as his colleague in the 8th National Assembly.”
On the forthcoming celebration of the 60th Independence Anniversary of Nigeria, the former Senator stressed the need for all hands to be on deck to tackle the numerous challenges confronting the country and militating against its development.
The former Senator also said that, “In the next few days, Nigeria will be 60 years as an independence nation and it is a time for us to appreciate and carefully analyze the successes, failure and the challenges we faced as a nation and as a people.”
“If you look back to history to the manifestos of politicians in the pre-independence Nigeria, their campaigns have been always on infrastructure, light, water and education and I believe in 2023, the campaign of the next politicians will be on the same issues. I think we should accept the fact that, Nigeria is not where is supposed to be, where our aspirations and needs as people have not been made by our leaders,” he further said.