The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige says any strike by the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities would be illegal and might prompt the ministry to take legal actions.
Dr Ngige while speaking to State House correspondents after a private meeting with the president in Abuja, said the last conversation the government had with the non-teaching staff ended with a plan by both parties to meet next week to continue negotiations, therefore any planned strike before that will be regarded as a breakdown in negotiations.
He added 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.
Ngige’s comment is coming as the leadership of both SSANU and NASU signed a joint statement declaring both associations will embark on strike beginning from the midnight of February the 5th 2021 to press home their demands which includes inconsistencies in the implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payroll and Information System IPPIS and delays in the renegotiation of their 2009 agreement with the federal government.
Addressing the move by for a strike, Ngige said: “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.”
The minister stressed that he is very optimistic that if the unions give the government three months, then their demands will be met appropriately.