The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) have blamed the lingering industrial crisis in the country’s education sector on failure of the federal government to keep the collective bargaining agreement reached with unions in the sector.
The universities’ lecturers have also said that federal government’s insistence on its members’ registration on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), was the reason negotiations have continued to end in stalemate.
Speaking at second Quadranial delegates conference of SSANU in Abuja,yesterday, the President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said government’s penchant for reneging on agreements reached through collective bargaining with labour unions was responsible for frequent industrial action being witnessed in the educational institutions.
“You don’t sign agreement for the sake of it. You signed so that it can be implemented. You can’t sign an agreement and then wait till it is due for implementation before raising issues.
“I think that has been the problem of collective bargaining administration in this country. It is not so elsewhere and we do not have to celebrate a Nigerian standard. Are we looking for a global standard or Nigerian standard? We should be aiming at a global standard, not Nigerian standard and the global standard is enshrined in convention 198 of International Labour Organisation (ILO),” he said.
Wabba said the unions in the education sector have always committed themselves to a diligent process of collective bargaining but that the problem had always been from the government side.
“The important one which had constantly referred to is the collective bargaining agreement of 2009 between federal government and ASUU. If that agreement was signed in good faith and was implemented, I am not sure we will be where we are today,” he said.
Wabba lamented that while the unions go to the bargaining table with open mind and clear mandate to sign an agreement, in most cases the default is from employers and government.
The NLC president said that government is a continuum that should inherit the assets and liabilities, adding that no administration should try to run away from agreements signed by the previous ones.
In the same vein, the President of SSANU, Comrade Chijoke Ugwuoke said the 2009 FG/ SSANU agreement was an example of how agreements freely entered into were not implemented or were done in breach.
“As we speak today, the biggest challenge being faced by SSANU is the lack of respect of agreements duly and freely entered into by our employers either at state or federal levels. In 2001 , an agreement was duly reached with the federal government, which was left largely unimplemented before 2009 when another agreement was yet reached,” he said.
Ugwuoke explained that some aspects of the 2009 agreement with respect to Earned Allowances, career structure and progression of SSANU members, encroachment into non-teaching units by academic staff among others, are yet to be implemented despite series of strikes between 2009 to date,
Meanwhile, ASUU has said that federal government’s insistence on its members’ registration on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), was the reason negotiations have continued to stalemate.
In a statement issued by ASUU president, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, the union said the federal government should release all what is due ASUU members and the union without the conditionality of IPPIS.
ASUU president said: “What has stalled meaningful dialogue was government’s insistence that payment of the withheld salaries and other entitlements of our members would only be effected through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS)”.
He said that government is punishing university teachers because they rejected IPPIS, which was imposed on the universities against the provisions of the law on autonomy and universal practices.
He also accused the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) of illegally withholding all the deducted union check-off dues of ASUU members in the last nine months.
Regarding the lack of progress on the meeting between the leadership ASUU and the federal government team, the union said that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator. Chris Ngige, had promised to send to the union government’s written position on their demand after their meeting last Wednesday.
He said government agreed to consult all concerned Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on Friday, for their inputs into government’s new position.
While pleading with Nigerians for their understanding, Ogunyemi said the union is trying to ensure the children of the poor who cannot afford prohibitive cost of private universities get quality education.
“Our Union is struggling to ensure that the children of the poor, who cannot afford the prohibitive cost paid in private universities or do not have opportunities to study outside Nigeria, get quality education which is not priced beyond their reach. This will only happen when government adequately funds public universities and addresses the rot and decay in them,” he said.
Ogunyemi explained that ASUU had shifted positions, adding that the members have reduced their demand of one tranche N220 billion of the outstanding revitalisation fund by 50 per cent.
He said the union has also agreed that N30billion out of the so far verified arrears of N40billion of the earned academic allowances (EAA) be paid to their members while the balance of N10billion could be spread over the next two tranches.
“We were equally making steady progress on other issues”.
He further urged government to release all what is due ASUU members and the union without the conditionality of IPPIS so that the sides could meet to conclude on the outstanding five demands, which include, “revitalisation fund, Earned Academic Allowances, renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement, inauguration of the Visitation Panels, proliferation of state universities and governance issues, to pave way for the quick resolution of the lingering crisis. It is government that is prolonging the matter, not ASUU”.