The federal government has stated that it supports the negotiation of the university workers’ benefits package in light of current reality.
On Monday, Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, stated as much during a meeting with members of the 2009 FG and university-based unions renegotiation committee.
Ngige confessed that the government was dissatisfied with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strategy for pursuing its demands.
ASUU began a one-month warning strike on February 14 and then prolonged it for another two months due to the government’s alleged refusal to fulfil their demands.
During a meeting with the Federal Government Renegotiation Committee in his office, however, Ngige appealed to the committee to complete its assignment within six weeks, as stipulated in the Memorandum of Agreement with the unions.
The Minister also asked ASUU’s leadership to find a better manner of pressuring the Federal Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission, NUC, to speed up the implementation of agreements agreed with the government rather than going to strike every time a disagreement arose.
“I am not the Minister of Education,” Ngige claims. I can’t go to the Minister of Education and tell him how to operate his department. But I advised ASUU that if you want this to move forward, you should bombard them at the Federal Ministry of Education.
“There are many ways to do so. If you go to the labour act, there is something called picketing. You can picket. The strike is an ultimate thing. Picketing means that you can stay in the corridor, clapping or singing. Workers are permitted to do so.
“But I am tired of every time there is a disagreement, it is a strike. And the bosses in the Federal Ministry of Education don’t feel the strike. It is the children and some of us parents that have our children in public schools.”
He also added, “Why won’t I support if ASUU and their unions now want a renegotiation of their conditions of service, which is the main thing in the proposal by the previous Committee.”
Prof. Nimi Briggs, chairman of the 2009 FG and university-based union renegotiation Committee, said his group was meeting all parties in order to find a peaceful solution to the ASUU disagreement.