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BRIEF - FG drags ASUU to court as negotiation fails
The Federal Government has dragged the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to
the National Industrial Court over the union’s prolonged strike action which is about 7 months old.
This disclosure is contained in a statement issued on Sunday by the Head, Press and Public Relations of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, who said that the Federal Government took the decision after its dialogue with the ASUU leadership failed.
Oshundun in the statement said that the referral instrument in the trade dispute between the federal government and ASUU dated September 8, 2022, was addressed to the Registrar of the Industrial Court and signed by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige.
The Federal Government in the case which it seeks accelerated hearings, wants the National Industrial Court to order ASUU members to resume work, while the issues in dispute are being addressed by the court.
The case is scheduled for mention at 9 am on Monday and the Federal Government is asking the court to determine whether the strike by ASUU is legal or not.
What the Federal Government is seeking in the suit
The Federal Government in the suit wants the court to interpret in its entirety the provisions of Section 18 LFN 2004, especially as it applies to the cessation of the strike once a trade dispute is apprehended by the Minister of Labour and Employment and conciliation is ongoing.
It also wants the court to, “Interpret the provisions of Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, Cap T8. LFN 2004, titled “Special Provision with Respect to payment of wages during Strikes and Lock-outs,” specifically dealing with the rights of employees/workers during the period of any strike or lock-out. Can ASUU or any other union that embarked on strike be asking to be paid salaries even with clear provisions of the law?
“Determine whether ASUU members are entitled to emoluments or “strike pay” during their period of strike, which commenced on February 14, 2022, more so in view of our national law as provided in Section 43 of the TDA and the International Labour Principles on the right to strike as well as the decisions of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association on the Subject.”
Determine whether ASUU has the right to embark on strike over disputes as is the case in this instance by compelling the Federal Government to employ its own University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) in the payment of the wages of its members as against the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) universally used by the Federal Government in the nation for payment of wages of all her employees in the Federal Government Public Service of which university workers including ASUU members are part of or even where the government via NITDA subjected ASUU and their counterpart UPPPS university payment platform system software to integrity test (vulnerability and stress test) and they failed.”
The Federal Government also wants the court to determine the extent of ASUU’s demand since the 2020 Memorandum of Action (MOA) that the union signed with the government.
The demands include the funding for revitalisation of public universities as per the 2009 agreement, Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) payments, state universities proliferation and constitution of visitation panels and release of a white paper on the report of the visitation panels.
The others are the reconstitution of the government renegotiation team for renegotiation of the 2009 agreement, which was renegotiated in 2013/2014, due for renegotiation in 2018/2019 and the migration of ASUU members from IPPIS to its own UTAS, which is currently on test at NITDA.
What you should know
ASUU had on February 14, 2022, embarked on a 4-week total and comprehensive strike to press home their unresolved demands on the federal government.
Some of the lecturers’ demands include funding for the revitalisation of public universities, which amounts to N1.1 trillion, payment of earned academic allowances, and adoption of the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) as a preferred payment option, instead of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), payment of promotion arrears and the renegotiation of the 2009 ASUU-FGN Agreement.
The Federal Government’s Briggs renegotiation committee, had since April 2022, been meeting with ASUU and other labour unions in the universities, who went on strike due to its dispute with the government and non-resolution of demands of the 2009 agreements signed with the federal government.
Minister of Education Adamu Adamu, who insisted on no-work, no-pay policy had earlier said that the insistence of ASUU on the payment of the withheld salaries was stalling negotiations by the parties.
He added that the government had met all the demands of ASUU, except the payment of 6 months’ salary arrears which President Muhammadu Buhari rejected when a proposal to the effect was presented to him.
After several extensions of the industrial action, ASUU remained adamant in its resolve to press on with its demand as it now declared an indefinite, total and comprehensive strike on August 30 over failure of government to meet its demands.