By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja
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.