…Says no varsity unions were invited to last Thursday’s meeting
By Victor Ahiuma-Young
THE Federal Government through the Ministry of Labour and employment, Sunday gave insight into why no unions in the nation’s university system education were invited to last Thursday’s meeting.
FG stated that the meeting was to assess the progress made so far on addressing the few outstanding demands of the striking university workers, such as the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of their conditions of service.
In a statement by Head, Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, lamented that the combative and several unfounded allegations by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU against the government, particularly, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, saying, “all insinuations that the Ministry of Labour does not sympathise with the students, unions and parents, of which the Minister is one, should be disabused.
It noted that “ASUU should know that we are arbitrators and conciliators. We cannot manufacture agreements. Regardless, we are not constrained from listening to the government side and pushing them to do their own bit as quickly as possible.”
The statement faulted the ASUU President Professor Emmanuel Osodeke’s comments during an interview on Channels Television that his union did not receive an invitation from the Federal Government to attend the meeting held last Thursday, June 23, 2022 at the Presidential Villa Abuja.
According to the statement, Prior to Osodeke’s interview, all kinds of write-ups authored by members of ASUU had been trending on social media, accusing the Minister of Labour and Employment, of being the headache of the university lecturers.
Among others, the statement “We will start by making some clarifications on the government side meeting held last Thursday, June 23, 2022, geared towards accelerating the resolution of the multiple strike actions of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other university-based unions, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
The meeting was meant for the inter-ministerial departments and agencies committees of the Federal Government, including the Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Budget Office of the Federation, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). The committees are reporting to the office of the Chief of Staff to the President and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment
The meeting in question was called to assess the progress made so far in addressing the few outstanding demands of the striking university workers, such as the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of their conditions of service. These two committees were empanelled by the Minister and the Chief of Staff to the President at the last tripartite plus meetings of the unions and the government side.
“For the avoidance of doubt, none of the unions was invited to last Thursday’s meeting and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Dr Chris Ngige, while briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting last Wednesday, June 22, 2022, clarified that the meeting would hold the next day (Thursday, June 23,2022), for the government side alone.
“As expected, the meeting was held and all the stakeholders reported on the various assignments given to them and accordingly, received further briefing and directives from the President in order to accelerate discussions with ASUU. It is hoped that before Wednesday this week, all the various sub-committees will turn in their reports, to enable Mr President to be briefed fully and for decisions to be taken on the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of the conditions of service, especially the issue of wage increase.
“It is after receiving briefings from the government side that the Ministry of Labour will bring all the stakeholders, including the unions, to a conference table to look at the agreement before signing or endorsement.
“All insinuations that the Ministry of Labour does not sympathise with the students, unions and parents, of which the Minister is one, should be disabused. The Minister had on several occasions received a commendation from the ASUU leadership for his role in the resolution of the impasse in the education sector. Acting with the Chief of Staff to the President, he empanelled the two committees to work assiduously and according to the law, towards the resolution of the teething issues of payment platform and renegotiation of the conditions of service. The claims made here are verifiable, being out there in the public domain.
Nonetheless, the ministry will not allow itself to be bullied by any union into forcing any payment platform on the government, which took a decision to adopt the IPPIS a long time ago in 2017.