Senior Varsity Workers Begin Indefinite Strike Today


By Collins Olayinka
Academics activities are expected to be grounded further today as the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) has declared an indefinite strike to demand the full implementation of its agreement with the Federal Government.

By this pronouncement, SSANU therefore joins its ASUU counterpart, which has also ordered its members to sit at home demanding the implementation of its agreement with the Federal Government over funding of the universities, autonomy among other issues.

Addressing the media in Abuja at the weekend, the National President of SSANU, Promise Adewusi, also alleged that the Federal Government had concluded arrangements to introduce N180, 000 tuition fees per session in the universities. According to him, government decision was based on the need to seek an alternative source of funding for the universities, especially in view of the global economic meltdown.

He said: "The failure to honour the agreement that was reached since 2001 anchored by some 27 eminent Nigerians led by Mr. Gamaliel Onosode is one of the reasons we are calling our members out on strike. We were told to accept N180, 000 tuition fees and we say we will not because no average Nigerian parent can afford it. The situation will lead to governor producing governor while gardeners will be producing gardeners. No salary is enough to guarantee good living and where do they expect parents to get that kind of money from.

This is a union that has not gone on total and indefinite strike in about eight years but our patience has been tasked. So, as from Monday, July 20, 2009, all our members will be instructed to withdraw their services from the universities. From the clinics to electricity departments all our members will down tools. We hereby advise all parents and guardians to withdraw their wards from schools as the provision of basic services can no longer be guaranteed. The strike will not be called off until all our demands are met."

Adewusi also flayed government for unilaterally approving marginal increase for workers of the nation's institutions of tertiary learning without recourse to the International Labour Organisation (LIO) Convention 98 on Collective Bargaining that stresses the need for tripartism in negotiations. He said SSANU reject such an increase in its entirety and would not be a part to its implementation.

"It is ridiculous that government will just sit somewhere and approve what it thinks is right for workers without a recourse to the ILO Convention 98 on collective bargaining.

Government empowered 27 eminent Nigerians led by Mr. Gamaliel Onosode and they negotiated for nearly two and a half years and an agreement was reached and government is finding it difficult to implement the agreement. Government should go back and implement that agreement and the excuse of the global economic meltdown does not hold water. If government had respected this agreement, the issue of economic meltdown would not have met it," he said.

Adewusi noted that the non-respect of collective agreements by government was making mockery of the claim that it was being guided by the rule of law. It added that government must re-brand itself rather than seek to re-brand Nigerians on whose rights, it trampled upon in its social dealings.

He said the issue in contention is well beyond the issue of salary and payment of monetisation arrears but also include retirement age of its members and adequate funding of the universities.

Adewusi cautioned workers not to be overtly optimistic about the recently inaugurated committee on new minimum wage saying, "with the way this government is reneging on agreements, there is no reason to be optimistic about the implementation of the recommendations of the committee on minimum wage. If government is refusing to implement agreements it reached years ago, what is there to show that it will respect new agreements? he asked.

The SSANU national president also berated the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) led by Adisa Adewolu for ordering ASUU back to the classrooms.

"Let us first remind IAP that these crises came about because government failed to honour agreements it earlier reached. So, it is only logical for IAP to advise government to honour the agreement so that the crises can be sorted out and not for it to take sides and order us back to work," Adewusi said.

Adewusi said government's directive that both ASUU and SSANU and other unions in the sector should negotiate with their respective councils, was too late.

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