Barth Ndubuwah, Port Harcourt
As the Federal Government (FG) announced the reopening of schools across the country after the COVID-19 pandemic, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and their Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) counterpart have vowed to continue with their six month old strike until the FG implements pending agreements with the unions.
Speaking to journalists on the matter, the Chairman of ASUU, University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) Chapter,Dr Austen Sado said until the Federal Government implementes the 2009 agreement it reached with ASUU, the reopening of schools is of no consequence, as their members will not resume work and as such teaching and learning will be impaired.
Sado said though ASUU has no power to either close or reopen schools, but it has every right to withdraw its services when aggrieved.
He identified some of their grievances to include, unpaid earned allowances, revitalization of universities, proliferation of universities and non-implementation of the 2009 agreement by the FG, among others as the bone of contention.
The ASUU Chairman said as far as he is concerned the issue of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) has been settled since 2013 when ASUU presented the University Transparency And Accountability Solution (UTAS) as alternative to prove to the Federal Government that they are not aversed to the fight against corruption. He said UTAS has been tested and presented to the FG, it is now up to them to implement it. He described the Federal Government’s claim on IPPIS as a distraction from the main issues.
Dr Sado said even if the Federal Government starts implementation of UTAS, the problem remains and until all the pending agreements with ASUU are honoured industrial peace in the universities cannot be guarranteed.
On his part, the Chairman of SSANU, UNIPORT Chapter, Mr Bernard Ezechukwu reiterated the fact that his members cannot resume work until the Federal Government does the needful by implementing all the agreements reached with SSANU and other unions in the universities.
According to him, it is one thing to reopen schools and yet another thing for academic activities to commence.
“SSANU won’t resume work because our members are on warning strike, which may graduate into full-blown strike if the Federal Government refuses to act fast and address the grievances of the unions, that necessitated the warning strike.
We were not opposed to IPPIS initially, but the short implementation of the scheme left us with casualties, as our salaries were unjustly battered with deductions.
So based on that we have totally rejected the IPPIS of the Federal Government,” Ezechukwu said.
The SSANU Chairman also lamented the failure of the government to pay arrears that emanated from the N30,000 minimum wage, coupled with the non-implementation of the 2009 agreement, stressing that industrial harmony may be far to achieve in the Nigerian universities if the Federal Government continues to deliberately ignore the agreements reached with industrial unions.
Lending his voice to the issue, the Chairman of SSANU, Rivers State University(RSU),Comrd Azumah Cheta said his members are bound to comply with the directive of its national Secretariat and therefore they will join the SSANU strike for solidarity sake.
He agreed that most of the contending issues are of national concern, but as part of the union, they are obliged to proceed on strike .
“It is important that we comply because when we have local issues, we also need national to come to our rescue. But nobody strikes against himself, so we will be logical in compliance, bearing in mind that we have local peculiar issues in RSU that need to be addressed,” Azumah said.