26 November 2012

Nigeria: University Workers to Begin One-Week Warning Strike in December

In a move aimed at sending warning signals to the Federal Government on what to expect in 2013, university workers have threatened to shut down all federal and state universities for one week in December.

The workers warned that any attempt by government to accept any recommendation that would lead to reduction in the workforce of non-teaching staff in the universities as advised by the NEEDS Assessement Committee report will plunge the education sector into another major crisis.

This was the outcome of the National Executive Council (NEC) of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) meeting held at the weekend in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

To actualise their plan, the three unions in the sector - SSANU, the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) have fixed a crucial meeting for December 3, to mobilise workers for a one week warning strike which will commence December 10, 2012.

SSANU National President, Mr. Samson Ugwoke, who made the declaration shortly after the meeting, warned of a looming industrial unrest in 2013 should government fail to make adequate provision for the payment earned allowance, as spelt out in the 2009 agreement between the Federal Government and the three non-teaching staff unions in the 2013 budget.

He said the warning strike will be a prelude to what Nigerians should expect in 2013 if the unions' demands are not met.

"Anybody talking of touching the numbers of our members in the universities is playing with fire. We will not condone that. This is a warning to the government, any committee recommending reduction in the workforce of non-teaching staff in universities should be resisted by SSANU and other unions. It is a warning to the Federal Government; they should allow the status quo to remain to ensure peace in the university system.

"On the Earned Allowance. This time around, we are sending an early warning. I made it clear that until a provision is made in the 2013 Budget for the payment of earned allowance, nobody can and will guarantee peace in the university sector come 2013.

"I am appealing to the Federal Government to hear us very well, if that money is not included in the budget and paid, there will be no peace in the university system. We will close down the universities for one week in December as a warning strike to the government," Ugwoke said.

A communiqué read by SSANU president gave government a seven-day ultimatum to attend to all the demands of the union on the Report of the Universities NEEDS Committee and SSANU Earned Allowances effective December 3, 2012 or risk an industrial action.

The communique reads: "NEC-in-session critically examined the Universities Needs Assessment Committee Report presented to President Goodluck Jonathan for approval and observed that all the stakeholders were not involved in the activities that brought about the report.

"Thus, NEC viewed the absent of relevant stakeholders like SSANU as a serious procedural defect and a lapse which has led to the inequities that the report represent.

NEC wondered how retrenchment and deployment of some non-teaching staff from the universities to Federal Ministries would address the perennial problems that are bedeviling the Nigerian university system.

"NEC-in-session, therefore, called on the Federal Government to disregard the report for the sustenance of the comparative peace being enjoyed by the universities and in the alternative, set up another committee with membership drawn from all stakeholders including staff unions to assess the needs of the universities, and come up with a broad-based assessment to the Federal Government."

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