THE Federal Government has said it would meet with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) next week to end the closure of Nigerian public universities.
Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige disclosed this on Friday at a meeting between government representatives and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) in Abuja.
Like ASUU, NAAT is also on strike.
Senator Ngige noted that multiple industrial disputes in the education sector could have been averted if the unions had taken advantage of his open-door policy like the health unions, which he said culminated in the resolution of labour crises in the health sector.
In a statement issued by the Acting Head Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Patience Onuobia, the minister who also decried the rivalry between the education unions, noted that everybody is important in the university system.
He assured that the government was tackling all the disputes in the education sector holistically, knowing fully well that none of the unions could function effectively without others.
The minister said, “If you are from any union, you don’t need to book an appointment to see me. The doctors started using that advantage, and JOHESU also did the same. That is why the health sector is quiet. But the education unions don’t take advantage of my open-door policy.
“We don’t have to cry over spilt milk. Let us look at your issues to see the ones we can handle immediately, the ones we can do in the medium term and the ones we can do in the long term. There are certain ones that are over and above me that are not in my hands to do.
“My job is to prepare an agreement after conciliation on what you have agreed with your employers. The Federal Ministry of Education puts timelines and monitors them to see whether the results will be there.
“As a conciliator, I manage you people in measured steps. That is why I want to take all of you holistically, and I ask for your cooperation. When I finish with you today, I will continue with ASUU next week.”
Ngige maintained that the issues causing the uproar in the industrial milieu were economic, bordering on money and welfare, including old arrears and the 2009 renegotiation of Conditions of Service.
Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Andrew David Adejo, re-emphasised that all the issues in dispute were basically economic.
According to him, everybody wants improved conditions of service.
Adejo noted that while the government agrees that workers should enjoy better Conditions of Service, consistent industrial actions had worsened the situation.
Addressing the meeting, the President of NAAT Ibeji Nwokoma said ordinarily, they would not have gone on strike, but were compelled to do so because the Education Ministry didn’t help matters in the issue.
He said they embarked on strike as a last resort to draw government’s attention to their plight.
The ICIR reported that the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) had warned political parties that no convention would be allowed to hold in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, unless the ongoing ASUU strike was bought to an end.