More than six months after the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics failed to move the federal government into action, a mass protest which will involve lecturers, students, market women, organized labour and other stakeholders is now on the card
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Apr. 28, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THE Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, is adding more fuel to its ongoing six-month industrial action. It has decided to embark on a mass protest if federal government fails to pay the March and April salaries of the lecturers. The mass protest will involve lecturers, students, market women, organized labour unions and other stakeholders. Chibuzor Asomugha, president, ASUP, who spoke on Political Platform, on Ray Power FM, on Friday, April 11, expressed his union’s frustration with the federal government over its handling of the six-month-old strike. The union president said ASUP members have not been paid their March salary and definitely that of April will not be paid.
The ASUP president also said his members are not moved by the government’s threat of no- work- no- pay policy. Asomugha said the last meeting held between the government and the striking lecturers on March 26 in Abuja failed to meet the demands of the union. He said ASUP made further concessions at the last meeting including agreeing to a two-instalment payment of the agreed salaries and allowances; and the setting up of an inter-ministerial committee to review the other contentious issues. He said that the meeting agreed that the government delegation would brief President Goodluck Jonathan and come up with a Memorandum of Understanding that would be signed by both parties.
According to him, ASUP was concerned that since the March 26 meeting, the government had not gotten back to the lecturers three weeks after. Asomugha said the planned protest would involve market women, students, lecturers and labour unions who are all concerned with how the federal government is treating polytechnic education in Nigeria. He did not state the day of the protest. He, however, said the union was still seeking an amicable solution to the strike and had written to the Senate President, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to intervene in the strike. He added that the Senate President had replied saying he would intervene after conclusion of work on the 2014 budget.
But the federal government has insisted that it would not be blackmailed into stopping the “no-work-no-pay” policy against striking workers of the ASUP and the Colleges of Education Staff Union, COESU. Speaking during a courtesy visit to the chairman, Committee of Provosts of Colleges of Education, on Friday, April 11, Nyesom Wike, supervising minister of education, said it would be unfair to continue to use taxpayers’ money to pay the salaries of the striking workers. “You believe that you can go on strike and your salary would continue. You are happy, collecting your salary when you are not working. We take other taxpayers’ money, and you are smiling to the bank,” he said.
Wike disclosed that he had received a letter from ASUP in which the union argued that since the policy did not work with their counterparts in the universities, it would not work with them. “Government is serious that this time around, the ‘No-work, No- pay’ policy will work. The issue of blackmailing government every time will no longer work,” he said, adding that the unions could not continue to insist that things must be done their own way.
He also described as blackmail comments credited to leaders of the striking unions that the government was not making efforts to end the strike. The minister listed some of the efforts that had already been made by the government to resolve the strike in relation to the demands of the unions. He lamented that ASUP has refused to allow the government pay the salary arrears for the migration to CONTISS 15 in two instalments.
“There was no time we paid all the monies to ASUU at once. The monies for the revitalisation of infrastructure in universities did not go into the coffers of ASUU. There must be negotiations. We have tried, we have made efforts, and the unions cannot insist things must be done their own way. That is extremism.”
Speaking earlier, Ezoem Ignatius Nwanze, chairman of the Provosts’ Committee, said the strike in the Colleges of Education has grounded the sector and turned their campuses into graveyards. He noted that the committee has also made efforts to talk with the unions but regretted that instead, the unions turned round to accuse the provosts of sabotage and of being government agents. “We know what you are doing already, but we want you to resolve this issue once and for all, so that the unions would not feel like second class citizens,” Nwanze said.
The ASUP had been on strike since October 1, 2013. The union accused the federal government of refusal to implement the release of the white paper on the report of the visitation panel to federal polytechnics, non-implementation the Needs Assessment of public polytechnics and the welfare of members and removal of dichotomy between HND graduates and those with university degrees in placement and career progression.