By Luka Binniyat & Inalegwu Shaibu
ABUJA – After the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) rejected a 40% pay rise by the Federal Government (FG) last week, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Mr Adetokunbo Kayode, yesterday said the FG would still meet with striking University lectures today to find a way out over the month long strike.
The Minister made this known in Abuja yesterday at a meeting with the House of Representatives Committee on Labour and Productivity. â€œI am ready to discuss with all unions, I want them to take into consideration the plight of Nigerian students,â€™ he said.
According to the Minister, â€œthe decision by government to refer the matter to the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) was not meant to spite the union but to comply with the laws of the landâ€.
He said the yearly pay of the University lectures is N105 billion against, but that the demand by ASUU to jack it up to N175 billion is not achievable now.Â â€œWe are in a difficult economic situation,â€™ he said.
â€œGovernment would ensure proper funding of Nigerian Universities that can compete favourably with their counterparts in other countries. â€œGovernment has set up a high powered committee to look at the issue of minimum wage for Nigerian workers,Â as it is not ASUU alone that is agitating for pay riseâ€, he said.
The Chairman of the Committee, Hon Ado Dogo (PDP-Kaduna)Â said a labour Bill that would address labour matters was before the House for consideration. â€œThe incessant strikes in the country indicates that all is not well with the polityâ€, he said .
….Senate fails to end crisis
However, aÂ meeting convened yesterday by the Senate Committee on Education to broker peace between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) ended in stalemate following the inability of both parties to reach an agreement.
The Committee also berated the various stakeholders in the education sector for allowing the crisis to linger to the detriment of Nigerians.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Joy Emodi who presided over the meeting that included the leadership of ASUU, led by its President, Professor Ukachukwu Awuzia summarily called the meeting to a halt following signs of dilly-dally by ASUU.
She dismissed the meeting when it became clear that ASUU was foot dragging in accepting a new date for the parties to return to the negotiation table for possible resolution of the crisis.
The was because a member of ASUU negotiation team, Dr. Oladipo Fasina had attempted to commit the Federal Government team to making a promise of signing the agreement to be reached at the end of the negotiations.
But the President of ASUU, Professor Awuzia in trying to explain the rationale behind not rushing to accept a new date from the Federal Government accused government of inconsistency in the whole process of negotiation.
He said, â€œAs we talk now, there is no solid evidence of any agreements reached at the negotiating committee. Government is paying lips service to the critical issues, our grouse was on the imposition of government stance on the Union rather than observing the due process of placing their offer at the negating council.â€