Fresh Strike: FG to clear arrears of varsity workers by October – Ngige

In a bit to prevent a fresh strike in nigerian universities, the Federal Government has set the end of October for the payment of the arrears on the consequential adjustment on minimum wage owed to members of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU).

Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, disclosed this at the end of a meeting between the Federal Government and the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the two unions, convened to examine the level of implementation of the Memorandum of Action it signed with the unions in February 2021.

Ngige commended the unions for their understanding and maturity in cooperating with the government to resolve their issues, emphasising that government did not take them for granted.

The minister disclosed that the meeting was a continuation of an earlier one held on February 25, 2021, at his instance, during which agreements were reached on various issues concerning members of the unions.

He stated that the meeting agreed that the payment of the arrears be fast-tracked between now and the end of October, adding that arrears in salary and promotion had been captured in the 2021 Supplementary Budget.

Ngige stated that it was not government’s intention to delay the payment, saying the delay was caused by the difficulty in getting the actual number of people qualified for the arrears, as a lot of people had joined the Service from 2020 up, while the period of the arrears spanned April 19 – December 31, 2019.

On Earned Allowances by relevant organisations (universities, polytechnics, Colleges of Education), Ngige said the JAC would update the National Universities Commission (NUC) on the outstanding amount owed its members, while the NUC was given two weeks to do the appropriate reconciliation.

The meeting agreed to correct the anomalies in the payment of Hazard Allowance caused by an error in the printing, which had seen all members collecting the same sum of money across board, with no distinction between senior and junior.

Regarding the Responsibility Allowance, where heads of unit were omitted, Ngige disclosed that their employers had been given two weeks to rectify the anomalies to enable the affected people to get the appropriate allowance due to them.

On the issue of the Renegotiation of the FGN/SSANU/NASU 2009 Agreement, Ngige stated that the unions and NUC would agree on a date to meet, disclosing that the secretariat of the renegotiation committee was ready.

The Minister stated that as the Visitation Panels for Universities, constituted by the government, had finished their work and would present their reports next week, the meeting agreed that government should, as soon as possible, issue the appropriate White Paper for implementation.

Ngige also stated that the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation reported that out of 293 claims received, all had been processed with 273 paid, while the 20 outstanding would be paid as soon as possible.

The Minister disclosed that the meeting stepped down some issues billed for discussion because of the unavoidable absence of the relevant officers, inconsistencies in IPPIS payments and update on teaching staff usurping headship of non-teaching units in clear violation of condition of service and establishment procedures.

He disclosed that the meeting was adjourned to the end of October, adding that all the complaints would continue to be handled administratively, as timelines had been put on some of the outstanding issues.

On his part, the General Secretary of NASU, Peters Adeyemi, who also doubles as the spokesperson of the Joint Action Committee of both NASU and SSANU, said the meeting was work-in-progress, aimed at keeping a line of communication open on all the negotiated issues.

He added: “The meeting was a work-in-progress to keep government agencies on their toes. This kind of meeting will hold periodically to ensure that there is a constant dialogue on all the negotiated issues.”

Adeyemi also confirmed that October has been set for the payment of minimum wage consequential adjustment, saying: “We have had concrete assurance on the implementation of the arrears of consequential adjustment of the national minimum wage, which is outstanding. The government has assured us that the money would be paid not later than the end of October.”

Adeyemi revealed that the meeting did not discuss the inconsistencies noticed in the implementation of IPPIS because the Director of the payment system and the Accountant General of the Federation were not at the parley, which necessitated the postponement of the negotiations on the issue to a later date when both officers would be available.

He, however, hinted that both NASU and SSANU had requested to be involved in the payment system to give the correct guide where and when necessary.

“We also discussed the need to get us involved in how IPPIS does its job as far as payment of incentives and privileges is concerned. We are not happy that some of these issues have not been properly implemented. Our members have not been adequately captured in these payments which have impacted negatively on the lives of our members,” he stated.

The NASU scribe said maintaining a line of communication on negotiated issues with industrial unions would douse incessant strikes and bolster the understanding of workers.

His words: “We have been accused severally for not allowing industrial peace reign in the universities. This meeting clearly shows Nigerians that the unions are the problems of the universities and inter-university centres. But if the government fails to do what is required of them and we have reasons to go on strike, Nigerians will know that we have given the government sufficient time to implement the agreement they have with us and that if they fail, we will not be held liable for whatever action that will be generated by government’s inaction.”

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