The controversies rocking the Nigerian universities system may be far from over as the Federal Government has given indications that members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, may also forfeit their eight months’ pension entitlements for the period the strike lasted.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, gave this indication in Abuja, after a private meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Ngige who described the year 2022 as a year of strikes, noted that members of ASUU triggered the fate which might befall them as a result of the “no work no pay policy” implemented while their strike lasted.
Recall that ASUU and Federal Government have been embroiled in a show of supremacy after the apex university union suspended its eight-month strike but failed to get its full month’s salary afterwards.
Lamenting the situation, Ngige said the government had to contend with industrial disputes from various unions in the public sector as against the private sector which was relatively peaceful all year round.
The Minister of Labour also hinted that government was handicapped by funding challenges, but noted that plans are on to shore up the salaries of workers in the academic system.
The minister said: “ASUU has not pronounced anything on their salary anymore because it’s one of the issues that was referred to the National Industrial Court for determination, whether a worker who is on strike should be paid in violation of Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act which says when you go on strike, the consequences are these.
“Number one, you will not be paid, you will not be compensated for not going to work to enable your employer keep the industry or enterprise afloat. That money should not be given to you, and that compensation should not be given. It’s there in Section 43 (1). There is a second leg for Section 43, it also said that period you were on strike will not count for you as part of your pensionable period of work in your service.
“That aspect, government has not touched it, but the aspect of no-work-no-pay has been triggered off by that strike. So we are asking the court to look at it. So the matter is out of the hand of the Executive (that’s us) and out of the hand of the judiciary. ASUU has also put up a defence in court, asking the court, “yes we went on strike, but we did that for a reason.” So it’s now left for the court to look at it.”
Commenting on his mission to the presidential villa, Ngige said, he was there to brief Mr President on the labour sector for 2022.
“It’s a year we can call a year of industrial dispute starting from the February Academic Staff Union of the Universities (ASUU) strike which was joined by other sister unions in the university system and even the people in the research institutes and thereafter pressed from various unions, including the Medical Doctors Association and the youth wing of the National Association of Resident Doctors.
“JOHESU which is the Joint Health Sector Union were all asking for a wage increase, and asking for a wage increase can also be understandable because of what inflation had done to the economy and the attendance cost of living for people who have to be workers in the public sector.
“In the private sector, the private sector employers have managed their affairs better, maybe, because their finances and its management is within their very audit and they could control it, they could do collective bargaining very easily with their workers. The banking sector, food and beverages, and finance, insurance, everywhere; there is calm there. We didn’t have the desired calmness on the government’s side because of the government’s finances, “Ngige told State House correspondents.