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Why we’re still on strike, by ASUU, others

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Unions in the university system, including the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) have blamed the lingering industrial crisis in the education sector on failure of the Federal Government to keep the collective bargaining agreement reached with them.

NLC President Ayuba Wabba stated that government’s penchant for reneging on agreements reached through collective bargaining with labour unions was responsible for frequent industrial action being witnessed in the education sector.

Wabba’s position was re-echoed by the National President of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Samson Ugwoke, who said the biggest challenge faced by the union was the lack of respect of agreements duly and freely entered into by government at all levels.
But the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed disagreed, saying demands by various unions in the universities have led to polarisation of the university system, making it difficult to match up with its peers abroad.

Rasheed lamented that constant strikes by unions in universities was affecting the robust growth of the system

They spoke at the 2nd Quadrennial delegates conference organised by SSANU with the theme: “Respecting the sanctity of collective bargaining in democracy.”

Wabba said: “You don’t sign agreement for the sake of it. You signed so that it can be implemented. You can’t sign an agreement and then wait till it is due for implementation before raising issues.

“I think that has been the problem of collective bargaining administration in this country. Are we looking for a global standard or Nigerian standard?

“We should be aiming at a global standard not Nigerian standard and the global standard is enshrined in convention 198 of International Labour Organization (ILO).

“The important one which we constantly refer to is the collective bargaining agreement of 2009 between federal government and ASUU. If that agreement was signed in good faith and was implemented, I am not sure we will be where we are today.”
President of SSANU said the 2009 FG/ SSANU agreement was an example of how agreements freely entered into are not implemented or are done in breach.

“As we speak today, the biggest challenge being faced by SSANU is the lack of respect of agreements duly and freely entered into by our employers either at State or Federal levels.

“In 2001, an agreement was duly reached with the federal government which was left largely unimplemented before 2009 when another agreement was yet reached,” he said.

Ugwuoke explained that some aspects of the 2009 agreement with respect to Earned Allowances, career structure and progression of SSANU members, encroachment into non-teaching units by Academic Staff among others, are yet to be implemented despite series of strikes between 2009 to date.
The executive secretary of the NUC said there was need for the unions to enter into negotiations with the Federal Government with one accord, rather than a segmented approach.

According to him, it is regrettable that most times government and individual unions lock horns negotiating for better welfare packages for their members at the detriment of the students.

“No university in the world can operate effectively in isolation, it is frustrating that the university system in Nigeria have been polarised by various unions. You have NAAT, ASUU, SSANU all negotiating for different things.

“Most times, while one group is negotiating with government, others are warming up for strike unless their demands are met,” he said.

The executive secretary also said that the Federal Government has reconstituted an eight man Committee to harmonise and finalise existing agreements between government and the unions.

He said Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu has secured approval from President Muhammadu Buhari to constitute Visitation Panels to oversight the activities of all Federal Universities in the country.

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