By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja
The Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities, SSANU, has warned the Federal Government to withdraw the circular directing that workers of the Staff schools should not be captured in the 2022 budget.
SSANU also warned that reopening a matter that had been decided by the National Industrial Court would affect the industrial harmony being enjoyed in the universities, alleging that if the government should go ahead to implement the directive, over 3,000 of its members would be affected.
But the Federal Government has assured that everything will be done to address the matter and ensure that it didn’t lead to crisis.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja, weekend, on the looming crisis in the universities, President of SSANU, Comrade Mohammed Haruna Ibrahim accused the government of going contrary to the agreement with the union even when the court had given a judgment on the matter.
Comrade Ibrahim, who was reacting to the alleged circular from the Budget Office directing that teachers in Staff Schools should be removed from the Consolidated Salary Scale, CONTISS, in the 2022 budget even when there is a subsisting court judgment in favour of the union said SSANU would “fight” the development to finish.
He said, “Well, the issue is that we are also taken aback by the recent negative development that we just saw last week that the federal government through the budget office directed that universities should expunge or remove the list of our members who teach in the university demonstration schools, meaning that they shouldn’t be captured in the CONTISS salary table.
“But the government is planning to put them in a different salary table called CONPISS, the consolidated public service salary scale.
“Now, this is a negation of our agreement with government, because those members of ours who are in the university demonstration schools are bonafide members of University staff, and they have their employment letters signed by the registrar’s of various universities, as approved by councils under the terms and conditions for engagement is that they will operate and be paid based on the consolidated salary scale, that is paid to all university staff.
“Unfortunately, this development shows that government is trying to create another friction between us and them. Because the attempt was made five or six years ago, when government decided to remove them completely from the employment and we went to court, as you’re aware, went to industrial court.
“After a long battle, we got a judgement in our favour. And it was interpreted that members of staff in the universities who teach in the university staff, schools or demonstration schools are bonafide members of staff of universities, as employed by councils, therefore, they should be treated as such, those that were sacked, should be returned, and that their salaries should be restored.
“And that we were happy we celebrated this, government complied to an extent, even though there are still some universities that have returned them, but have refused to pay them backlog of their salaries that they missed.
“So, all of a sudden, this is the recent development like I call it negative development that has erupted and our members cannot sit down and watch or the union cannot sit and watch its members being maltreated.
“There is a contract agreement with government, these people have been employed. Our expectation is that we should allow that to continue until when they retire. If government is planning to stop funding, personnel costs of teachers in the university demonstration schools, it should be from the new employments they are making, but not the ones that they have already employed and they have signed contract with.
“We will not allow this we will fight again with all the vigour and we will follow all the legal ways of making sure that we defend the interests of our membership, like we did in the first instance,”
The SSANU boss said that the government could not consult the union before issuing the directive, but threatened that it will fight it till the end.
“Honestly like I told you we were taken aback because nobody was consulted, they did not even deem it fit to copy us as a Union. We only got to know about it through our universities because those people preparing budget, those accountants working in the bursary are our members.
“So our attention was drawn that government has made a move and has directed that budgets of 2022 should not include teachers of the university staff school and that they should be treated with a different salary scale and we have met and resolved that we will not agree and that we will fight it with all the legal means and instruments available to us.”
Asked how many of its members will be affected, SSANU boss said,
“We have fairly not less than 3, 000 members that are teaching in those schools. And if you were to take 3000, you can imagine that each and every person has nothing less than 10 members of his family that are benefiting from that salary. So, this we will not agree this will not allow, and we feel that we deserve some fair deal from government,”
Also asked what action SSANU will take if government goes ahead to implement the decision, Ibrahim said, “The labour laws are there. If your employer infringes on your rights, there are laid down procedures. And one of it is to go to court, industrial Court, which we have done before and God being on our site, we were able to scale through the huddle.
” And all of a sudden, they have come back through the back door. And nothing will stop us from going back to the court of law to ensure that our members rights are protected, this will do.”
When contacted on the recent development, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige said that though the matter was not before him, he would ensure that it will be addressed amicably when to avert any crisis that might arise from it.
Asked on what he was doing about the SSANU threat over the matter, he said, “Well I have not gotten a report from SSANU on that particular issue but if I remember correctly it is one of the issues that I have conciliated upon following the National Industrial court judgement about few years ago. So, I will be surprise if that matter rears its head again.
“The issue is very clear, if the Universities employ people in their primary schools, then those people are not University staff, if they employ people in secondary schools for those who have secondary schools, again the courts have demarcated what should be done particularly in terms of the capital component of those schools and the recurrent component of those schools.
“So when we get their letter, we will address it, I don’t think it will result in any crisis industrial action again because it is not a new matter.”