There is the fear of another long strike returning to the nation’s polytechnics and colleges of education, our correspondent learnt on Monday.
The anxiety is coming as the Federal Government has yet to meet the demands of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics and the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, more than three months after it promised to resolve all outstanding issues concerning the industrial actions.
It was learnt that ASUP had scheduled Wednesday, November 12, for its Council of National Officers’ meeting to reappraise the “compassionate treaty” it reached with the Federal Government in July.
The ASUP President, Mr. Chibuzor Asomugha, in an interview with our correspondent on Monday, said both the teachers and their students were not happy with the “delay in resolving all the outstanding issues.”
Asomugha, who did not make any categorical statement on whether members of the union would embark on another full-scale industrial action, noted that anything was possible, considering the worry and restiveness on campuses arising from the government’s inability to address the workers’ concern.
He, nonetheless, noted that it was for the elected national officers of ASUP to decide the next step to take.
He said, “We are meeting next Wednesday in Abuja to decide on what next to do. More than three months after we suspended our strike to enable the authorities to address the issues fully, nothing concrete has so far come out of it.
“The leadership of the union was to meet with the authorities on October 20 to discuss the grey areas, but that meeting did not hold because the technical committee set up by the government had not filed its report.
“As I speak with you, no new date has been fixed for the meeting, but I tell you, anything is possible among our members, especially as the government has not addressed our issues.”
The ASUP chief, however, lauded the minister, saying he at least inaugurated the technical committee that was harmonising all the outstanding issues.
COEASU also described the Federal Government’s intervention so far, especially its October 28 letter to the union over the suspended strike, as belated.
The union, in a communiqué obtained on Monday after its three-day meeting in Abuja, said the letter coming after the “expiration of the three-month moratorium was quite belated and unsubstantial in its terse content.”
The union’s president and secretary, Messrs Emmanuel Asagha and Nuhu Ogirima, respectively, signed the statement.
The union argued that the continued delay in the implementation of the “migration concept” in the colleges of education was just unacceptable, even as it was an act of injustice.
It added, “The Council, therefore, implores the Federal Government to commence the full implementation of migration by paying the arrears accruing therefrom as a matter of urgent national interest, so as to stem the imminent resumption of the national strike suspended three months ago.
Meanwhile, the Education Rights Campaign has condemned the inability of the government to meet the unions’ demands.
The action of the government, ERC in a statement by its Coordinator, Hassan Taiwo, said, was “contemptuous” of public education in the country.
The group, therefore, called on the Federal Government to immediately meet and begin the implementation of all outstanding demands of ASUP and COEASU in order to avert resumption of industrial action.
But the the Special Adviser on Media to the Minister, Mr. Nnamdi Olebara, who spoke on behalf of his principal, urged the unions not to engage in any action that would further disrupt academic activities in the nation’s tertiary institutions.
According to him, the minister is sincere in the treaty he reached with the unions and very soon, all the issues would be resolved amicably.
He said, “The minister is sincere. The promise is a sincere one and everything is on to fulfil the promise. It may not have been so smooth as to click with the end of three months, but we are not far from fulfilling that promise.
“In fact, we want to leave here much better than we met it and the minister’s assurance should be taken in good faith and with all seriousness.”
The leadership of ASUP and COEASU, last July 12, suspended their strike to enable the Education Minister, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, to look into their requests.
Before the suspension, ASUP strike, which started October 4, 2013, lasted for 10 months, while that of COEASU, which commenced December 18, dragged on for seven months.
The action not only disrupted the students’ academic calendar, it also frustrated many of the students, especially the Higher National Diploma candidates, from participating in this year’s compulsory National Youth Service Corps scheme.
ASUP is demanding, among others, the removal of what they regard as discrimination against polytechnic graduates, review of the Polytechnics Act, the establishment of a National Polytechnics Commission and the release of the White Paper of the visitation to federal polytechnics.
They are also kicking against the poor funding of polytechnics, deplorable condition of state polytechnics, appointment of unqualified persons as rectors of polytechnics and the review of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System and the funding of the CONTISS 15 Migration.
Colleges of education teachers, whose agitation started last December 18, are demanding, among others, the release of the 2012 Visitation White Paper, implementation of the NEEDS Assessment Report, harmonisation of conditions of service and the granting of autonomy to the colleges to award degrees.
The Federal Government did not meet many of these requirements while the then Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, superintended the activities of the ministry.
This resulted in the protracted industrial actions, which lasted till July 12 when a compassionate treaty was reached between Shekarau and the striking lecturers, leading to the suspension of the strikes.
SOURCE – Punch