The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has faulted the Federal Government over its handling of the industrial actions that have grounded activities in public universities.
It is also calling on the Federal Government to pay the salaries of the striking workers, which it said had since “been frozen on the premise of the so-called ‘no work-no pay’ policy”.
The request for the payment of the workers is one of two demands the top labour union made in a statement on Sunday, five months after a strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) began.
Other unions in public universities have since commenced industrial action, strengthening the ASUU strike which started on February 14, disrupting the education of millions of Nigerian students.
In the statement signed by its President, Ayuba Waba, the NLC demanded, “The Federal Government should immediately conclude the ongoing negotiation with trade unions in Nigeria’s universities and be prepared to commence implementation of whatever Collective Bargaining Agreement arising therefrom so that public universities in Nigeria can resume normal activities.”
Hopes that the strike which is now in its fifth month will be resolved any time soon have looked slim as the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Labour and Employment, and ASUU have traded accusations with talks since abandoned.
The NLC is troubled by the development and the sincerity of the Federal Government in its negotiations with the university unions.
It stated this in its statement titled ‘Federal Government Not Negotiating In Good Faith to resolve the crisis in Nigeria’s Public Universities.
Of particular concern are reports that the government may have rejected a report by a committee it set up over the strike.
“The Nigeria Labour Congress is concerned about reports widely disseminated by the media both online and traditional positing that the Federal Government may have rejected its own Nimi-Briggs Committee on the premise of alleged disparity between the pay rise allocated to university teaching staff and the non-teaching staff,” the statement read in part.
“First, we wish to posit that the purpose for setting up the Nimi Briggs Committee was to conform with the fundamental principles of the rights of trade unions to collective bargaining as guaranteed by ILO Convention Number 98 which Nigeria has ratified.
“Second, we wish to point out that one of the cardinal principles of collective bargaining is the Principle of Negotiation in Good Faith. Elements of this principle include conducting genuine and constructive negotiations, making every effort to reach an agreement, avoiding unjustified delays and complying with the agreements when they are signed by the negotiating parties.”
Another sour point for the NLC is the level of engagement between the Federal Government and the unions.
It said, “Since the Federal Government decided to set up the Nimi-Briggs Committee to make recommendations on the review of the salaries of workers in Nigeria’s university, the negotiating unions and the Nigeria Labour Congress have been kept in the dark on the report of the Committee.
“It is, therefore, a shocker for us to read from the media snippets of a report of what is strictly the product of a negotiation between the Federal Government Committee and the concerned trade unions.
“Our first response is to aver that this development gravely betrays and undermines the principle of negotiation in good faith as it manifests crass disrespect by the government for trade unions in Nigeria’s universities.
“Second, the circumstances surrounding the work of the Nimi-Briggs Committee also portrays the disposition of government as mortally unserious unfortunately in such a grievous matter as the locking up of public universities for nearly five months.”