THE President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Emmanuel Osodeke, a professor, has said Nigerian students and the government would sacrifice one academic calendar over the government’s refusal to pay his members’ salaries for the period they were on strike.
Featuring on Channel TV’s Sunrise Daily on Friday, the ASUU President said that while other workers who go on strike do not return to do all the work they failed to do, lecturers must begin work where they stopped.
He expressed shock with the government’s attitude to the strike for five months before responding.
“We are surprised that the union went on strike; first, it was just for four weeks. This minister (of Education) and all other ministers did not respond. We extended it by four weeks; they didn’t respond. We extended it again by 12 weeks before hearing the president say he gave the minister two weeks to resolve this problem.”
Osodeke alleged that the government deliberately kept quiet to enable it to divert the lecturers’ salaries for other purposes.
He also said there was no difference between the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu and his counterpart in Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, in how they handled the union’s demands.
Speaking on why the government should pay ASUU members for the six months they were on strike before they could call off the strike, the union’s leader said: “Let me tell you the difference between ASUU and other labour unions. When other unions go on strike and come back, all those periods for which you are on strike, you don’t need to do the backlog.
“But for ASUU, when we go back today, we are going to start from the 2020/2021 session. For these two sets of students that have been admitted by JAMB, we have to teach them over these periods to ensure that we meet up with the system.
“So, we are going to do the backlog of the work we have left behind. We are not going to start today and say this session is 2022/2023. Therefore, all these two sets of people that have been admitted by JAMB are cancelled. We have to take another admission for the 2023/2024 session’.
“That is the difference between the two unions. We are going back to do the work.
“If we agree on that, therefore, the lectures we should have given for 2020/2021 and 2021/2022, they should be allowed to go. So we start a new session in 2022/2023 with effect from September, which is when a new session should start.
“Therefore, by July next year, I would go on my leave as we used to have in those days so that the backlog is gone. All the lectures that remaining; all the two sets of admissions that JAMB has given that are waiting should become irrelevant.”
He maintained that lecturers are paid for work done and not per time, the reason he insisted that the government must pay the backlog.
ASUU proceeded on strike on February 14. While the union and the government agreed on its demands this week, the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to approve the payment of salaries for the six months the workers were on strike has stalled the anticipated resumption of academic activities in all public universities affected by the strike.
The ICIR reports that though the International Labour Laws and Conventions require that workers’ unions take care of their members while on strike, the Nigerian government has often paid its striking employees after the parties have reached an agreement.
The government, which usually threatens not to pay the workers during the period they were on strike, shifts its ground to maintain good employer-labour relations.