By JOAN NWAGWU
Abuja- The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) have commended the efforts of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, towards resolving their indefinite strikes.
Mr Peter Adeyemi, spokesman, the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the unions, said this at the resumption of the conciliation meeting between the Federal Government and the striking unions in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that members of the unions had been on warning strike to press home their demands from the Federal Government.
The unions’ complaints include alleged inconsistencies in payment with Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), non-payment of earned allowances, non-payment of arrears of National Minimum Wage and its consequential adjustment.
Others are poor funding of state universities, delay in renegotiation of the 2009 agreements, non-release of white paper on visitation panels and non- payment of retirement benefits to members.
Adeyemi commended the minister for his efforts which had started yielding the desired results.
He said Ngige had, in the past, made efforts to bring their employer to the negotiation table but to no avail.
He, however, expressed happiness that the minister’s efforts had started yielding fruits with the presence of the new Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Peter Adejo, at the latest conciliation meeting.
According to him, “we are attending this meeting with an open mind. We thank your Excellency, Sen. Ngige for the efforts you have made before you got tired of us. We started writing and you are no longer replying.
“Part of the efforts you have made consistently has started yielding results. We are now seeing the permanent secretary of education here.
“ We can recall very vividly that Your Excellency has done so much to get our employers to attend meetings, which have started achieving the desired result.
“Today, I am particularly happy that the new permanent secretary has come to apologise.
“Honestly, I think the apology is not the problem to us. Our problem is that the ministry should do what is exactly expected of them.
“They should assist the Ministry of Labour that is saddled with the responsibility of restoring order in our system. And if they do their own part, I am very convinced that the problem will be resolved.”
Adeyemi therefore, said there was need for other agencies of government to also do their own part of the bargain, to ensure peace and tranquility in the system.
He, however, said they were pained that the action had been prolonged by the government.
According to him, “nobody should blame us for our action, as we are ready to go back to work as soon as the promises made to us in the last few years are fulfilled.
“We don’t want to stay at home for one minute any longer but that will be dependent on how government fulfills its own part of the agreement.
“So, we are here with an open mind. We don’t want to continue to disrupt the system. If the government refuses to fulfill its own part, we should not be blamed.”
Earlier, the permanent secretary apologised to the unions on behalf of his Minister.
Adejo said the impression that the Education Ministry abandoned their workers was not true but contrived to make it that way.
He urged the unions to forgive in the spirit of the just concluded Lenten season and Ramadan, so that they would have a fruitful discussion.
He added that with the social apartheid arising from the spate of strikes and problems, the earlier the issues were resolved the better for everybody, especially the children and their education.
Ngige expressed hope that the meeting would be truthful, fruitful and cordial, so that all those on strike would go back to work.(NAN)