Strike: FG Calls Off Talks With ASUU

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By Francis Okeke
The government yesterday called off negotiations with striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU), citing rigidity on the part of the dons to call off the on-going strike action.

Chairman of the FGN/ASUU Re-Negotiation Committee Gamaliel Onosode said at the end of the deadlocked meeting in Abuja: “The government team endeavoured to facilitate the conclusion of these negotiations at the strict employer-employee level. Unfortunately, that effort has been stalled by the current strike action. We, therefore, cannot get to the point where the councils can receive the documents and speedily conclude the negotiations for implementation,

“Consequently, the government team is not in a position to continue further negotiations with the union until it suspends its strike action to provide an enabling environment .”

Also in a press briefing, the Minister of Labour and Productivity Prince Adetokunbo Kayode asccused ASUU of hindering efforts by government to resolve the crisis, following the announcement by Onosode that his team had backed out of the negotiation until ASUU suspends the strike.

“I have pleaded with them, the Senate President had pleaded with them, the Speaker had pleaded with them, all well meaning Nigerians have pleaded with them, including the Chairman of House and Senate Committees. On top of it, Mr. President has granted us a concession of 40 per cent, another special concession of paying over backward.

“The Vice President has also talked to them. There was agreement that they should go back to the round table to begin discussion, to work out the way out of this situation. They said that the issue is not money but all about the agreement and we have been busy working on it one way or the other with the understanding that they will call off the strike while discussion continues,” Kayode said

He pointed out that the matter had been referred to the Industrial Arbitration Panel which would adjudicate on it, stressing that “the rule states that if they are not on strike they must wait until the case is determined, if you are already on strike, you must go back to work but ASUU has refused to do this.”

ASUU's National President, Ukachukwu Awuzie, told Daily Trust on phone last night that his members would continue the strike until the agreement is signed.

He said government negotiators did not communicate its decision to call off negotiations. “No, no, no, no, there is no question of renegotiating it first. Didn't we negotiate it for two years?

“They changed the goal post in the middle of the game because by the letter of Onosode dated 10th July, where he said that in keeping with the content of what he called the Autonomy Act, which is neither here nor there because what we have is the Miscellaneous Provisions Amendment Act 2003; it is not called Autonomy Act.

“They hinged their argument on it saying because of that, the universities have been granted autonomy to appoint the Vice Chancellors without talking about the financial autonomy.

“Based on that, they said that we should go to the councils and negotiate and we said no, that the principle of collective bargaining demands and stipulates that once you start negotiations within a particular framework, you must complete it. “Moreover, none of the councils can generate the funds to run any of the universities. That is the situation.

“We are waiting for them to call us anytime but we are not calling off the strike until the agreement is signed,” he insisted.

Already, the Federal Government has said it was going to enforce the 'no work no pay' rule for the striking university teachers if they failed to suspend the strike and allow negotiation to continue.

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