The Lingering Strikes

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Wike

Despite series of meetings between the federal government and the leaderships of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics and the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, no agreements have been reached on the contentious issues

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  May 19, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

THE hope of ending the ongoing industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, COEASU, in the nearest future is fast diminishing. Members of ASUP have been on strike since October 1, last year and the federal government has insisted that the lecturers would not be paid for the period they have been on strike. President Goodluck Jonathan said on Sunday, May 4, during his  7th Presidential Media Chat that the government would not change its stand on “no-work, no-pay” policy adopted by his administration. He said the laws of the country required that workers should not receive wages for the period they would be on strike.

President Jonathan explained that he was not the one who put the law in place, stating that it had been in existence even before he assumed office. He said the lecturers should not expect to be paid during the period they are on strike. “You go on strike and you still want to be paid. It is not Jonathan that made that law,” he said.

The federal government is currently implementing the “no-work, no-pay” policy against striking lecturers of the polytechnics and Colleges of Education in the country. This policy appears discriminatory because members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, who had just ended their six-month strike last December, got the federal government to agree to pay them before the strike was called off. But the leaders of the striking Unions said they are not bothered by the implementation of the no-work, no-pay policy insisting that their strike was not about money as some people have insinuated. “We will not back down on our 13-point demand from government,” they vowed.

Asomugha Chibuzor, ASUP President
Asomugha Chibuzor, ASUP President

Apart from implementing the no-work, no-pay policy, President Jonathan has assured Nigerians that the issues that led to the industrial action were being handled by the relevant authorities. But nothing seems to have been agreed upon despite the several meetings held between the leaderships of the striking lecturers and representatives of the federal government. The lecturers have accused the authorities of unwillingness to meet their demands including the improvement of infrastructure and working conditions.

In solidarity with the striking lecturers, ASUU has urged the federal government to resolve urgently the issues that have caused the ongoing strikes in the nation’s public polytechnics and colleges of education. Nasir Fagge, ASUU president, said on Monday, May 5, in Abuja while briefing journalists on the state of the nation, that  it was imperative for government to resolve the issues in the interest of the Nigerian people and the development of sustainable education.

Fagge condemned the method used by policemen to disperse a peaceful protest embarked upon by ASUP and COEASU members in Abuja recently. He said the unions only marched to the National Assembly complex to deliver their letters of protest. “The police used teargas and poured water to disrupt the peaceful protest. As you will recall, these unions have been on strike for the past 11 and five months respectively. The protest is to compel the government to address certain issues concerning their terms and conditions of employment, and their work environment generally. This is one of the ways that the unions will attract the attention of the public and press home their demands,” he said.

However, Nyesom Wike, supervising minister of education, said almost all the demands of the lecturers had been met. He said the federal ministry of education remains committed to the resolution of the strike embarked upon by ASUP and COEASU. The minister noted that with newspaper reports that the two unions have finally accepted Federal Government’s offer to settle the CONTISS 15-month salary arrears in two instalments, the next step would be for the unions to officially communicate to the ministry for immediate action to be taken.

Wike said he believed that with the progress already attained after series of negotiations between the federal ministry of education, the federal ministry of labour and the unions, the strikes would be resolved in the coming days. He urged the unions to call off their strike actions and resume academic work in the interest of the nation.

Members of the ASUP have been on strike since last October 4, while the COEASU members commenced theirs last December 18. ASUP members particularly demanded that the federal government should remove the dichotomy between holders of HND and university degree. Other demands include the release of the White Paper on the needs assessment of polytechnics, review of the Polytechnic Act by the National Assembly and improvement on condition of service and infrastructure in schools.

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