The Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Associated Institutions (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Universities’ Teaching Hospitals Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI) have alleged that the federal government was deliberately abdicating its responsibility and refusing to honour signed agreements with labour unions.
The unions lamented that the non-implementation of agreements was responsible for persisting industrial actions in the country.
The Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige had said last week that the piecemeal implementation of past agreements with labour unions was necessitated by the bad economic condition the country is currently experiencing.
He had said though the federal government would not reject the agreements reach with the workers, its implementation will however depend on availability of funds.
But the General Secretary of NASU, Peters Adeyemi, who lamented non-implementation of agreement reached with unions in research institutions 10 years ago, blamed government officials for signing agreements with a view to ending strike without intension of fulfilling the terms contained in those agreements.
Speaking in an interview with journalists in Abuja Adeyemi, said: “We have had to contend with the problem of government and employers of labour in our country abdicating their responsibility and refusing to honour signed agreements.
“It is becoming problematic because every day, government signs Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Memorandum of Agreements (MoA). It seems, to a large extent, that such actions are nothing but a fire brigade approach on the part of the federal government to get striking workers back to work.
“They sign these MoU and MoA, when they know, they are not going to do anything to address the grievances of unions. I am not sure the federal government even knows the number of MoU and MoA they have signed in recent time”.
The NASU scribe attributed the quantum of industrial crises that happen in Nigeria to the alleged refusal of government, particularly the federal government, to honestly and faithfully implement agreements that they freely entered into with the unions.
According to Adeyemi, the implication of the government’s action will lead to many more strikes, saying, “this is because the moment they obtain these agreements, they go back to their members in good faith and the strike is suspended.
“But many months after that, nothing happens and a new set of agitations will then begin.”
Adeyemi further explained that the insertion of timelines in agreements was meant to ensure adherence to a timetable for implementation but expressed regrets that that has not also helped the situation much.
He added: “Incidentally even when timelines are attached to these agreements, it does not serve as a motivation to do anything.
“We have had agreements where timelines of six weeks were agreed upon, but nothing happen after six months and even six years. This shows clearly that the federal government willingly enter into agreements knowing fully well it is not committed to doing anything.”
Also speaking on the contentious issue, the President, Senior Staff Association of Universities’ Teaching Hospitals Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), Akintola Benjamin, accused the federal government of lackadaisical attitude of concerning respect for signed agreements.
According to him, one of the issues in contention between the union and government include withdrawal of circular on non-skipping of salary grade level 10.
He explained that though the unions in the research sub-sector secured a judgment for the implementation of the non-skipping, the federal government is yet to implement the policy service-wide but chose to implement it in a few ministries.
According to him, “We are saying that the judgment should be implemented service-wide so that it will cut across the entire 14 ministries where research institutes are.
“The retirement of 65 years as applicable in the Nigerian universities, which is yet to take off in the research institutions is another issue.
“In the universities, the retirement age is 65 years for both academic and non-academic staff. The scheme that the research institutes run is the same with that of the universities.
“The Colleges of Education and Polytechnics are enjoying the 65 years retirement age. We are asking that both research and non-research staffers should also enjoy 65 years retirement age. The academic staff in research institutes are already enjoying. We saying it should be extended to all the staff in order to stem migration from research institutes to other sub-sector.”
He added: “We are also asking for the establishment of a regulatory body be known as National Research Institutes Commission (NARICOM) as we have National Universities Commission (NUC) for the universities and National Commission for Colleges of Education and others.
“We are agitated by inadequate funding of research institutes. We are demanding that research should enjoy specialised funding in order to encourage research activities.
“We are seeking review of our conditions of service. We have worked on it and submitted it to the federal government but it has not taken any action on it. The one they released to us was manipulated so we rejected it. We are now calling on government to release the agreed version to us.”