There is nothing to suggest that the nine-month old strike embarked upon by members of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics and their counterparts in the Colleges of Education would soon end
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jul. 21, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THERE is still no positive signal that the nine-month old industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, will end soon. Members of ASUP embarked on the industrial action to press home their demands for better funding and improved welfare package. The strike has crippled academic activities in polytechnics, while ASUP and the federal government seem not ready to resolve the impasse.
Nyesom Wike, supervising minister of education, has blamed ASUP and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, COEASU, for being adamant in ending the lingering strike. He said the polytechnics and Colleges of Education teachers were frustrating efforts to end the industrial action.
Speaking at the public presentation of the education sector’s transformation under President Goodluck Jonathan, Wike said the N40 billon demanded by the teachers (N20billion for polytechnics and N20 billion for Colleges of education) would be paid in phases, but that the two unions had refused to accept government’s proposal.
He said the government could not raise the money at once, hence the plan to pay them by instalments. “Government is not the one holding on to the strike. An agreed proposal to pay CONTISS-15 arrears of salaries to ASUP members in phases is facing complications. Strike is not something you resolve easily. As at February when the arrears were computed, both ASUP and COEASU made a demand of N20billion each, amounting to a total of N40billion. It is not possible for government to raise N40bn. It was later agreed that the money be paid in two phases of N20bn apiece,” he said.
But Chibuzor Asomugha, national president, ASUP, has faulted the minister’s claim that the union rejected the proposal saying it was disappointing that he would be making such comments when efforts at resolving the crisis were ongoing. “We did not reject the proposal; I think we have gone beyond that part. The question is: did the minister plan to pay that money at all? Did he put it in the budget? First, he told us that N20 billion was in the budget; later, he said it was not in the budget. Why did he bring the Salaries and Wages Commission to begin to raise objections about the payment, if actually he wanted to pay? ASUP did not reject anything.
“We had proposed payment by instalments and we rolled out a plan on how it would be paid, which the minister rejected but tried to impose his own on us, which we also rejected. Later, we arrived at a plan on the instalments payment on the order of the president with the ministry of labour. If the minister was ready to pay any kind of instalments and the time was up, is it our refusal that will now stop him from paying? Or, is it our refusal that stopped him from attending three meetings with the Senate Committee on Education conveyed to resolve the matter?” he said.
The ASUP and COEASU embarked on an indefinite strike since October 4, 2013 and December 18, 2013, respectively to press home the implementation of their demands by the federal government. ASUP began the strike over what it described as government’s nonchalant attitude towards technical and technological education, as well as under-funding of the institutions.
The lecturers also cited the refusal of most state governments to implement the approved new salary scale for polytechnic teachers and the 65-year retirement age as another reason for going on strike. They also decried the imposition of professors from outside the polytechnic system to serve as rectors and the need for the commencement of the Needs Assessment of Nigerian Polytechnics to prevent the system from collapsing totally.