Chris Steven, Abuja
Academic activities across the nation’s federal universities may soon be grounded if threat by members of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities(SSANU) is anything to go by.
The union said its members may embark on an indefinite strike beginning from July 2015, over alleged plans by the Federal Government wants to exit salaries of university staff primary schools from the payroll of universities.
According to the President of SSANU, Comrade Samson Ugwoke who spoke on the tug of war between his union and the National Universities Commission (NUC) over the matter, the union would be left with no option than to down tools if federal government go ahead with its plan.
While speaking in Abuja yesterday, he alleged that the National Universities Commission(NUC) was behind the plot.
Both SSANU and NUC had been engaged in war of words in the past few weeks over a circular directing the National Salaries,Incomes and Wages Commission to henceforth stop further payment of salaries to teachers manning the various demonstration schools within the university system.
SSANU said if government does not rescind its decision,it would throw the numerous staff members of the affected schools into the already saturated labour market.
He explained that the contentious issue of the payment of staff primary school was a product of the 2009 FGN/SSANU negotiated agreement, in which the NUC,Ministries of Finance,Education and Labour,including other stakeholders were all active participants.
He argued that government was being discriminatory over the staff schools when it still funds the Navy,Army,Air force and Police staff schools.
“It has come to our knowledge that the NUC is conspiring with some other government agencies to scrap and throw thousands of workers(our members)out of employment prematurely in violation of our 2009 FGN/SSANU agreement.
“These schools in contention were established by statutes and the workers were duly employed by the universities’ councils,”SSANU President noted.
SSANU had in a memo to the Federal Ministry of Education in April 2015 said government could not opt out of the salary arrangement because the collective agreement has not been re-negotiated in line with the principle of social dialogue.
“It therefore smacks of executive arrogance and utter impunity to attempt to unilaterally repudiate the agreement duly executed by both parties without reference to our union particularly when the matter is the subject matter of various court cases,”Ugwoke added.
But NUC through its Director,Information and Public Relations,Ibrahim Yakasai had argued that part of the decision to exit the schools from the payroll of public universities was in the interest of minimizing the recurrent expenditure of the federal government.
Yakasai said SSANU was merely engaging in a campaign of calumny against the NUC,when it was clear that such staff schools were established by MDAs as private enterprises and therefore should be funded by the institutions that established them without transferring the burden of their wage bill to the federal government.