By Linda Musa
Labour unions in Nigeria’s the tertiary education sector have expressed their readiness to shutdown all universities, polytechnics and other higher institutions in the country for the 5th and 6th September warning strike and subsequently indefinitely strike called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)
National Presidents of the Academic Staff Union of Polytheistics (ASUP) Non-Academic Union of Allied Education Institutions (NASU), National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Comrade Anderson Ezeibe, Dr. Hassan Makolo, Comrade Ibeji Nwokoma, and Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, told SUNDAY TRIBUNE.
ASUP National President said; “Strike is legitimate instrument of engagement. It is internationally recognized. If an employee feels unhappy with an employee an employer, strike is a legitimate instrument of engagement.
“ I’m a member of the National Executive Council. I can that Nigerians are suffering and are going to hell. The platform created by the government to interface with labour all this while, has not been effective. And so far, labour has not seen any genuine programme if government to help the people out of this mess. So as NLC has propose strike, all affiliate unions will definitely abide by the decision.
“Government is not sincere. If government is sincere they will start from themselves by cutting cost of governance. When the government you tell him to sacrifice government you lead by example. So the people are not convinced that government is leading by example. The people are being pushed to the wall.
“Labour having talked and talked, sees that the only to move forward is to strike the strike and the strike is going to be very popular because we are suffering. We don’t have anything to further look at. We are going to the same the market and there is nothing to reconsider. We will issue directive to our members to commence strike once NLC give us the green light to go ahead.”
NASU National President said; “If NLC as a body was not looking for peace, was not looking for ways to ameliorate the problem, workers would have commenced strike yesterday. Now the 14 days ultimatum was given to see before now 14 days to come what new thing can the government do because the people are suffering. So if the government say we don’t want NLC to go on strike and we have seen their complain is genuine because people are suffering. Let’s do ABC. Then there could be a rethink on the part of workers.
“But if government still continue with the same situation we are now that workers will have to go to work and at the end of the day, salary will not take you beyond 3 weeks on transport. Then NLC will have to go on with the planned protest.
“Secondly the protest regarding the inversion of National Road Transport Workers office which is not a civil action. If there are labor issues it could reported to Ministry of Labour or NLC as a body or at most you go to court of competent jurisdiction to seek redress, not to do as if we are in the military dictatorship that you and invade a union head office on behalf of any interest group. It is wrong. In that second led, if the police will vacate union office, the issue of two days warning strike against that action may be averted. So government should do the needful and labour will have a rethink.
“Unfortunately, what the government ended up doing was to set up committees. I happen to be a member of one of the subcommittees. This committee met, and decide to guide government on how to go about the situation. And to take a very quick and proactive action. But till now nothing has been done. It was so much that NLC has to go one day protest. And it was just a signal to tell government that we’re not happy and after that protest, the report we are having is that no communication.
“So from the body language, there is no sign that the government actually know that the people are suffering. This there slogan of let the poor breathe we look at as making a mockery of the masses who are suffering, making a mockery of the downtrodden. So nothing has been done so far. And that is nothing on board to suggest that something tangible will be done. Like we kept saying, this government is not showing a any seriousness in doing anything to cushion the suffering of the people. Even the promise of refineries working by December, we are not sure will be come to pass.
“Well the membership of NLC are the affiliates. And all the four based university tertiary education unions are affiliates of NLC. When decisions are taken at the National Executive Council, it is binding in all members that are affiliate of NLC. And whether you are from academic based unions are or others, we are expected to respect that decision,of the National Executive Council because all of us were party to the decision.
“So nothing will deter unions from the academic sector joining the strike when the union members in the country are pointed to a direction we know is for the betterment of the downtrodden.”
NAAT National President also said; “Emphatically, NLC’s propose strike is the best action we have so far. In the first place what is palliative. Palliative is a temporarily cushioning effect. Presently government said they are giving palliative and they are giving 5bllion even though Stated got 2 billion. And you begin to wonder whether the money was released to States will get Into the hands of Nigerians who really are in need of the so called palliative.
“So far what we have stories that State governors are hung bags of rice and given to party members, in the name of palliative. And the people that the palliative was meant for which is the poor of the poorest, how many 9f them will be able to get this palliative that is supposed to be coming from government. What yardstick are they using to make this palliative available to the poorest of the poor in the society.
“You will also agree with me that there was no plan at all in place before the removal of the subsidy. Couple with the liberalization of the forex market. So because there was no pan in place, government is just throwing their hands on anything that they think can help cushion the effect on the people but unfortunately whatever they think they are Doug I’d not having any positive effect.
“Let me also tell truth, government has laid failed in their promises. I am the National President of the NAAT. I was in the Committee that was set up by government for transfer of funds. But the moment the discussions continue, they removed us from the platform and they never call us again for a meeting, that is insincerity on the part of government.
“What government should do differently is to negotiate with labour. Labour is the core stakeholder. And labour had been asking of wage award. It is not the first time has been done. It was done during Udoji. There is what is called udoji award. Is was during that time where because of the hard economic situation, government decided to give a wage award. So that in the interim, that could serve to cushion the effect. But this present government has not done anything instead they are shying away from negotiating with labour.
“Workers in the academic sector is the worst hit in the current economic crisis in the country. Before now we had a Memorandum of Understanding with government that our salaries was going to be review by 23.5 percent for all staffing the tertiary institutions and 35 percent for professors. But as we are talking, no such thing came to be. Government shied away from doing that and yet before the end of the last President’s tenure, the salaries of the public servants was increased by 40 percent. Leaving the tertiary education sector in their former salaries even inspite of the long strike action that place. Within the period we were on strike, government withheld our salaries and till date nothing has been done despite all resolutions and negotiations with government.
“So will grab this proposed strike with both hands. We are not even happy with the situation of things. So the universities workforce will not shy away from the strike. And will don’t have any miss feeling to embark on the NLC called strike.
“What labour want government to come to negotiating table. Labour want wage award. Labour want government to be responsible to own up to their responsibilities. Labour want to understand they make mistakes by nothing putting anything in place before removal of fuel subsidy.”
ASUU President said; “NLC position is our collective decision. We will abide by it.”