By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
Beginning from Monday this week, members of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) in both state and federal polytechnics, began a one-week warning strike. This is to be followed by a full scale nationwide strike if government fails to accede to their demands.
Comrade Adesakin Owolabi, the Yaba College of Technology branch Chairman of the union, in this exclusive interview, speaks on the devastating effects of a full blown strike on the polytechnic sector, and sheds more light on the demands of the union. Excerpts:
How does Polytechnics â€“ NASU relate with NASU of other sectors like Universities, Colleges of Education and so on?
The Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) is a union involving members in Universities, State and Federal Polytechnics, Colleges of Education, Research Institutes, ICAN, WAEC and so forth.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) cut across universities and polytechnics respectively. But NASU members in these various institutions are controlled by one body.
The union is broken into segments because of the wide number of institutions it encompasses.
What have been the activities of the parent body of NASU since the crisis commenced in educational institutions in the last two months?
NASU for universities has been on strike for some time now. It first gave a warning strike and thereafter declared a total strike and since then, the union has been on strike and it is still on strike up till now.
Why has Polytechnics â€“ NASU just embarking on strike since itsÂ university counterpart has been on strike for some time now?
Our members have been eager to go on strike. They have been saying: â€œWhat are we waiting for?â€ But we have all along been telling them that NASU is a very wide union. That Universities â€“ NASU can do their strike while Polytechnic â€“ NASU can also do its own.
Colleges of Education â€“ NASU has just ended their three-week warning strike and they will now assemble to assess theÂ situation report before the national body can now ask them to go on a full scale strike.
Does NASU in these different institutions negotiate with government individually or as a body?
We negotiated jointly with the Federal Government in 2001 for minimum wage. Now, the Nigeria Labour Congress is now asking for N52,200 minimum wage. Why canâ€™t government pay this wage when a senator is receiving a minimum of N13 million per month, when a House of Representatives member is receiving a minimum of N5 million.
And government cannot pay N52,200 as minimum wage for workers.
Is your union, NASU demanding for a minimum wage of N52,200 per month?
Yes, that is the minimum wage we are asking for.
So, apart from the demand for this minimum wage, what are the other reasons for your on-going one-week warning strike?
The one-week warning strike which began on Monday canâ€™tÂ this week is the first time in the last two months that our union, Polytechnics â€“ NASU will be going on strike. The first thing we are demanding is the cancellation of the policy of deregulation of oil sector.
The policy of deregulation is unacceptable because it will affect our members. The policy will give free hand to fuel dealers to increase the prices of their products.
It will affect us badly because we cannot do without these products. So, deregulation of the oil sector should be abolished. The second issue is the NASU-FG 2001 agreement which has to do with minimum wage. But up till now, the agreement has not been signed by the Federal Government.
And we are saying that an unsigned agreement can be thrown out at any time. The other demand is the issue of monetisation. We are supposed to be paid 100%. But the Federal Government only paid us 50% through e-payment, about two weeks ago. We are saying that the remaining 50% should be paid to us without further delay. Another issue is CONTISS 15 which Rectors of Polytechnics have been collecting.
How are you sure that Rectors have collected the Consolidated Tertiary Institutions Salary Structure (CONTISS) 15?
I have evidence. The Rectors are not denying it. They collected about N1.4m each, that isÂ arrears of CONTISS 15. No matter how small, government should also pay our members. What they are saying presently is that CONTISS 15 is meant for workers from Salary Grade Level 11 or 12 upward.
And we are saying that it is a wrong-headed policy, making the rich to get richer and the poor to become poorer. Apart from NASU, even some senior members of the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Polytechnics (SSANIP) have neither collected the arrears of CONTISS nor been collecting CONTISS 15 salary.
We haveÂ evidence pertaining to a letter written by the Registrar of YABATECH to AcademicÂ Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) where it is said that CONTISS 15 is meant for those on Salary Grade 1 to Grade Level 14. Although some are saying that CONTISS 15 is for Salary Grade Level 12 and above. What of those on Grade Level 1 to 11? We are also protesting the disparity in retirement age of 60 and 65 for University professors and Chief Lecturers in the Polytechnic sectorsÂ respectively.
They hold the same certificates from the university. For us, our position is that the retirement age should be pegged at 60 or 65 for everybody, whether academic or non-academic staff. We also want furniture allowance paid to our members. Why should government be paying senior staff this furniture allowance and refuse to pay our members?
Specifically, what cadre of staff are not receiving the furniture allowance presently?
Those on Grade Level 1 to Grade Level 5 or 6 are not getting the allowance rightÂ now.
How is your union going to enforce the one-week warning strike in state and federal polytechnics throughout the country?
All our members throughout the country are in full support of the strike. We have set up a monitoring committee and all the executive members of the union will be on ground throughout the week.
Our fight is against the federal and state governments.
If your union goes on nationwide strike after the warning strike, how will it affect academic activities in polytechnics?
If we go on nationwide strike, security staff, who are our members, will also join us. We have locked the Pottersâ€™ Lodge already.
Our members sort out results of students either on the request of students or HeadsÂ of Department. Admissions is on-going presently and our members are involved in it.
If we go on nationwide strike, admissions exercise and other academic activities will be jeopardised.