EditorialNot Another ASUU Strike

Not Another ASUU Strike

July 1, (THEWILL)- The recent meeting between agents of the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, over lingering matters affecting the university system is a welcome development.

Apart from averting the impending strike by the union, the meeting also helped in preventing another strike that might trigger a strike syndrome in the country, considering that organized labour is yet to get over its planned strike as the only option to compel the government to yield to its demand for minimum wage.

In the prevailing circumstance, therefore, it is better to keep talking than to waste energy fighting, further deepening mutual distrust and hardening of positions.

Although both groups at the meeting agreed to a two-week hiatus during which consultations would be made and notes compared on the relevant issues, we hope that the issues are as clear as daylight for both parties to arrive at common grounds and avert another strike that the country and the university system cannot afford.

We recall that the eight months-old industrial action that the union unconditionally suspended in October 2022 was described as “conditional,” meaning that pre-action can be reactivated without further consultation until agreements are met.

Although the Minister of Education, Professor Tahir Mamman, who hosted the meeting in his office last Wednesday said after the meeting that “lots of the issues we talked about are issues we all inherited and ongoing,” we wish to point out that government is a continuum and every succeeding government inherits the assets and liabilities of the preceding one. We referenced this obvious management dictum because of the way and manner the minimum wage issue has dragged on endlessly with intermittent strikes that send shockwaves through the social and economic system.

Indeed, it is alarming, to say the least, that the issues that prompted the February 14, 2022 strike across Nigerian public universities, following government’s refusal to implement the Memorandum of Action of December 2020, are still on the front burner in the letter that ASSU President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, addressed to Minister Mamman for discussion.

According to Osodeke, the issues which are 10 and emerging ones, include the conclusion of the renegotiation of the FGN/ASUU Agreement based on Nimi Briggs Committee’s draft Agreement of 2021;  release of the withheld three-and-half months salaries on account of the 2022 strike action and the release of unpaid salaries of staff on sabbatical, part-time and adjunct appointments owing to the application of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.

Outstanding third-party deductions, such as check-off dues and cooperative contributions and funding for the revitalisation of public universities partly captured in the 2023 Federal Government’s budget are other demands.

Others are Earned Academic Allowances (partly captured in the 2023 Federal Government’s budget); proliferation of universities by the Federal Government and states; implementation of the reports of visitation panels to universities; illegal dissolution of Governing Councils; and University Transparency and Accountability Solution in place of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.

With the ultimatum coming from ASUU chapters in many public universities last week, it is safe to conclude that the union has primed its various branches ahead of an impending strike.

As earlier pointed out, the country can ill afford another ASUU strike because, firstly, many of the universities that closed for eight months during the 2022 strike are just managing to recover in lost academic curriculum. Secondly, the non-settlement of the pending issues has negatively impacted teaching, research and extra-mural activities in virtually all campuses.

It is on this note that we call on the government to find a way to meet the lecturers’ demands, even if it means fulfilling the agreement in stages with clear timeline.

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