…Says Action Negates Section 41 of Trade Disputes Act, Cap T8, 2004
Chris Steven, Abuja
A fresh twist to the indefinite strike called by the Academic Staff Union of Universities emerged on Tuesday, with the Federal Government accusing the union of going against laid down constitutional procedures before embarking on the industrial action.
Specifically,Minister of Labour and Employment,Chris Ngige broke his silence over the strike, when he stated that ASUU it did not give the Federal Government, the mandatory 15 days’ notice as contained in the Section 41 of Trade Disputes Act, Cap T8, 2004.
He said he expected ASUU to immediately suspend the strike pending the outcome of Babalakin Committee set up by Government on Monday 13th February 2017 which was sitting on the demands raised by the academic staff union.
Ngige who spoke through his Deputy Director, Press in the ministry,Samuel Olowookere argued that his ministry received ASUU’s letter notifying him of the strike on Monday 14th August, 2017, when it had commenced the strike already.
ASUU’s leadership led by Biodun Ogunyemi had declared a nationwide strike on Monday,over alleged recalcitrance by Federal and State governments to implement the provision of the 2009 Agreement, the MoU of 2013 and the understanding reached in November 2016.
The development had thrown over 80 public universities in the country into jeopardy with undergraduates complaining.
Minister of Education,Adamu Adamu has kept mum on the strike while Ngige has sent a subtle appeal to the union to shelve the strike in the interest of the nation.
Ngige said,” there was an on-going renegotiation of the 2009 agreement between the Federal Government and ASUU by the Babalakin Committee which the Federal Government set up on Monday 13th February 2017, and which is already addressing the issues raised by ASUU.
“Though the Federal Government did not wish to apportion blame, “it is important to note that ASUU did not follow due process in the declaration of the industrial action as it did not give the Federal Government, the mandatory 15 days’ notice as contained in the Section 41 of Trade Disputes Act, Cap T8, 2004.
“In fact, it was on Monday 14th August, 2017 that the Office of the Minister received a letter dated 13th August, 2017 from ASUU, that is, one full day after it commenced the strike.
“The letter was to inform the Federal Government that ASUU has started strike and not a declaration of intention to go on strike as contained in the Trade Dispute Act, 2004”.
According to the Minister, since the case was being conciliated, it was against the spirit of Social Dialogue and Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for ASUU to embark on strike as enunciated in the ILO Convention.
“The Federal Government therefore wishes to appeal to ASUU to consider students who are currently writing degree and promotion examinations, call off the strike and return to the negotiation table, adding that “the Ministry of Labour and Employment will ensure that a time frame will be tied to negotiation this time around.”
“The Babalakin Committee was ever ready to continue the negotiation, indeed, it has all the necessary ingredients for fruitful social dialogue as well as adequate powers to negotiate and make recommendations to the Federal Government,”Ngige stated.
Meanwhile, academic activities went on unhindered at the University of Abuja, when our correspondent visited the almost three decade institution.
When contacted for comments, the chief publicity officer of the university,Abubakar Waziri said the local branch of ASUU was in full support of the strike and would join other institutions by Thursday this week.
Students were seen receiving lectures in defiance of the ASUU’s directive that the strike should be total and comprehensive.