Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige has described the proposed strike action by the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities as illegal.
Ngige who asked the two unions to give the federal government three months to forward a supplementary budget to the National Assembly to cover arrears of the minimum wage that have not been paid to them, said it will be illegal for them to proceed on strike when discussions to sort out some of the contentious issues were still ongoing.
The Minister warned that if the negotiation and what has been agreed is not obeyed, then the ministry might have to refer the dispute upwards from the industrial arbitration panel to the national industrial court.
“We will not claim ignorance of the fact that three unions in the University system, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities, SSANU and the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT had given us notice of strike.
“The first two unions SSANU and NASU did that under the umbrella of Joint Action Committee, JAC, and as government, we have moved to apprehend the strike because we just came out from a strike that lasted for nine months that was executed by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
“So in consonance with the labour laws, we have apprehended both strikes. They gave us Trade dispute notice, we scheduled meetings with them after apprehension, we held a meeting with NASU and SSANU last week Tuesday and the government position was explained to them.
“They have a lot of issues mentioned as their grouse, issues like IPPIS. They said IPPIS has amputated some of their allowances, they also have the issue of consequential adjustment that was paid to all civil servants as a result of the new minimum wage of N30,000 for staff above Grade Level One, that is starting from Grade Level two up to level 17.
“Those in the University system have not received their own, that was an inadvertent omission and it was explained to them and even without their prompting, without their trying to go on strike, the government on its own has computed the amount involved up to January with effect from 19th April 2019 when the minimum wage took effect to January 2020, that is the allowance or the consequential amount that was missed in the 2020 budget.
“We explained that government plans to put that in the Supplementary budget of 2021 which will be submitted by the National Assembly as soon as the Minister of Finance resumes from vacation. On the issue of IPPIS, we explained to them that it is something that is of general application, a lot of civil servants, public servants had complained that some of their allowances were omitted in the payment of their emoluments.
“IPPIS office explained that it was work in progress, they are putting back those allowances and they showed evidence that they have put back so many. So these two issues are the cardinal issues in the points they have made.
“So in the main, after conferring with Mr President, we are telling the unions not to carry out the action because that action will run counter to ILO Statute on Social Dialogue and Principles at work because their employers have listened, they have brought them to the table. So for SSANU and NASU, we are imploring them not to carry out their threat which they said will take effect from this midnight.
“Moreso, when the meeting adjourned from their own instance. Just this morning I received a letter from them giving us a new date for the continuation of the dialogue, they proposed a new date of Thursday 11th of February and my office has communicated to the back that we will be ready for them at that time because as they claimed they needed time to consult with their constituency and come back on the fresh issues that have cropped up from the discussion. So I briefed Mr President on that.”