ASUU: NLC urges FG to release withheld salaries

THE Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has urged the Federal Government to release withheld salaries of members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

The labour congress made the call in a communique issued at the end of its National Executive Council (BEC) meeting held in Birnin-Kebbi, Kebbi State, on Tuesday.

In the communique, the NLC, which expressed concern over the manner the seven months industrial action embarked on by the lecturers was handled, rejected the ‘no work, no pay’ policy of the government.

“This fact is buttressed by the recent protracted industrial dispute in public universities in the country, which was consummated in industrial litigation, arm-twisting of conciliation efforts and extreme violations of human and trade union rights, withholding of the salaries of university workers and interference in trade union activities including balkanization of trade unions in the tertiary education sub-sector and overt threats to proscribe existing trade unions,” the communique said.

The NLC further called on government to honour all collective bargaining agreements with unions in the tertiary education sub-sector, especially with regards to wages and conditions of service and increase budgetary allocation to the education sector.

Calling for “the release of withheld salary owed university workers”, the NLC said it rejected the “no work–no pay” policy of the government.

The labour union called on the Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige to respect the provisions of Nigeria’s Constitution and all relevant labour laws with respect to trade union independence, promotion of tripartism and social dialogue in the exercise of his mandate as a minister.

“NEC further resolved to defend trade union independence as guaranteed by the clear provisions of our labour laws,” the communique added.

On October 14, ASUU suspended the strike it declared on February 14 because of unmet demands by the Federal Government in compliance with the Appeal Court order upholding the NIC verdict, which mandated the union to suspend the action.

The three-member panel of the Court of Appeal headed by Justice Hamma Barka dismissed ASUU’s application for a stay of execution on the NIC ruling.

But it gave the lecturers seven days to file their appeal, during which they must have resumed work.

The Federal Government had dragged ASUU to the NIC because of the lingering strike.

Dissatisfied with the court ruling, the union engaged Femi Falana, who filed 14 grounds of appeal, including a stay of execution of the ruling, on behalf of the lecturers on Friday, September 26.

Apart from the appeal court ruling, the union also said it suspended the strike because of the interventions of President Muhammadu Buhari, Femi Gbajabiamila-led House of Representatives, and other eminent Nigerians who mediated in the crisis.

However, the union claimed the government was yet to meet its demands fully.

    The ICIR reports that while presenting the 2023 budget to the National Assembly in Abuja on October 7, President Buhari said the government earmarked N470 billion for the revitalization of the nation’s public tertiary institutions.

    But it is unclear if the Federal Government will pay the eight-month salaries backlog covering the period the ASUU strike lasted. Payment of the backlog was one of the reasons the strike dragged because the government had vowed not to pay.

    A major twist to ASUU’s appeal is the possibility of the union downing tools again if the appeal favours it and the government fails to meet its demands.

    Some of ASUU demands are: funding for the revitalization of public universities, earned academic allowances, stopping the proliferation of public universities, replacement of the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS) with Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), and renegotiation of the 2009 agreement between the government and the union.

    You can reach out to me on Twitter via: vincent_ufuoma

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