Strike looms in universities as unions issue 7-day ultimatum over unpaid salaries

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) has issued a one-week deadline for the federal government to pay the union members’ withheld salaries or face industrial action.

This comes as the Congress of University Academics (CONUA) has asked the government to pay the remaining portion of its members’ withholding salaries.

In a statement signed by SSANU President Mohammed Ibrahim and NASU Secretary Peters Adeyemi, the workers requested that the government pay the delayed salary in the same way as their academic colleagues were paid four months after several months of arrears.

JAC stated it had issued protest letters to President Bola Tinubu’s Chief of workers, Femi Gbajabiamila, regarding the exclusion of non-academic workers when the government chose to pay part of the withheld salary, but that the letters were not responded to two weeks after they were submitted.

“We, therefore, use this opportunity once again to call on the federal government to do the needful within the next seven days as the Joint Action Committee of NASU and SSANU should not be held responsible should the wheel of administration and corporate governance be grounded to a halt in the university sector, as we have exercised enough patience,” part of the statement reads.

The statement added: “If nothing is done by the federal government to positively address this situation and respond to our previous letters to them, the members of the two unions may be forced to meet soon to take all lawful and stringent decisions on the matter.”

JAC said it had done everything possible within its power to prevail on its members to maintain industrial peace and tranquility.

“While we appreciate the federal government for paying our academic counterpart, we also deem it necessary that our members are also paid,” the statement said, adding that the unions can no longer guarantee industrial harmony on the campuses should the government fail to pay them.

In 2022, two months after ASUU commenced a nationwide strike, both SSANU and NASU also embarked on nationwide industrial action that further crippled activities across the campuses.

The action was to protest the government’s failure to fulfill its promises to the workers and what they described as gross underfunding of the universities.

At the time, the former administration of President Muhammadu Buhari invoked a ‘No Work, No Pay’ policy and withheld the workers’ salaries.

The National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) also took part in the strike at the time.

SSANU queried the rationale behind the government’s insistence on the “no work, no pay policy,” saying that due process was followed before embarking on the strike that lasted for four months. Till the end of his tenure, Buhari never authorised the payment of the workers.

However, in October 2023, Tinubu announced that his government would pay four months of the withheld salaries to members of ASUU, immediately raising concerns as to the fate of the members of the other unions.

The National Vice President of SSANU, Abdussobur Salaam, said at the time that the directive appeared to be selective in favour of a single union out of others whose members’ salaries were withheld.

He said the president’s directive if not reviewed to include SSANU and other unions could be a recipe for disaster as he threatened another round of strikes if SSANU members’ withheld salaries were not paid alongside that of ASUU.

Meanwhile, CONUA has asked the federal government to pay its members the remaining part of their withheld salaries.

The academic union, a breakaway from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) asked the government to stop lumping up its members’ issues with those of ASUU members, saying its members had consistently denied being on strike while the ASUU strike lasted in 2022.

The latest position is contained in a statement issued by CONUA and signed by its National President, ‘Niyi Sunmonu, who commended President Tinubu for paying four months from the almost eight months’ withheld salaries of universities’ academic staff.

The statement titled: ‘State of the Nation, Payment of Four Months out of Seven and a Half Months’ Withheld Salaries, Stagnation of Remuneration of Academics, and Call for Negotiations,” CONUA urged the President to speed up his efforts and interventions aimed at repositioning the country for good and to address the pains of the poor due to economic hardship.

The statement reads in part: “Our union, CONUA, has consistently maintained that it never declared and was not part of any strike action.

“Since CONUA neither called for nor joined any strike, withholding the three and a half months salaries of members of the union contravenes Section 43 (1b) of the Trade Disputes Act CAP. T8, which states that “where any employer locks out his workers, the workers shall be entitled to wages and any other applicable remunerations for the period of the lock-out and the period of the lock-out shall not prejudicially affect any rights of the workers being rights dependent on the continuity of the period of employment”. This provision is consistent with global best practices. In conclusion on this, CONUA demands that the process of paying these outstanding months be kick-started immediately to ensure lasting peace in our ivory towers.”

In 2022, the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari invoked a ‘No Work, No Pay’ policy and withheld the workers’ salaries during the eight-month strike.

The workers’ unions that had their members’ salaries withheld at the time include ASUU and CONUA.

Others are: NASU, SSANU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).

However, in October, Tinubu announced that his government would pay four of the withheld salaries to members of ASUU, immediately raising concerns as to the fate of the members of the other unions.

Last week, the federal government began paying the academics – ASUU and CONUA – leaving out the non-academic staff.


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