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FG, SAANU meeting deadlocked

After 10 hours of marathon meeting, the conciliation meeting between the Federal Government and the non-teaching unions of Nigerian universities over the ongoing strike ended in a deadlock as the unions failed to endorse the proposed agreement by the Federal Government.

The non-teaching unions under the auspices Joint Action Committee (JAC), comprises Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SAANU), the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) and Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU).

The president of SAANU, Mr Samson Ugwoke, who spoke during a press briefing, said that despite the dialogue between the parties, the unions could not sign any document until they see a positive release of N24billion to the academic and non-academic staff.

He said, “We will not say anything now and this is just because we are just like messengers and we will get back here by Wednesday all thing being equal to continue our negotiation of call off the strike.”

The non-academic unions had earlier given the Federal Government a seven-day ultimatum to respond to their plight or have them embark on full-scale strike.

The Minister of Labour, Senator Chris Ngige, had earlier stated that the federal government acknowledged all requests of the non academic staff of universities and decided to deal with it adequately.

He also said that issues like non-payment of salary arrears , poor funding of the universities as well as shortfall in payment would be adequately addressed.

Also in his submission before the meeting, Senator Ngige, noted that there was no need for a seven days ultimatum to Federal Government since the labour law stipulates that union gives at least 15 days before embarking on strike.

He said, ” I must advise the unions to operate within the am bit of the law, and that is according to section 43 of Trade Union Act. And that has serious consequences. It stipulates that withdrawal from work attracts no pay. So what ever you people suffered last January was as a result of not honouring the rule. I am not a unionist but I have spent close to 18 months here and even if I cannot lean, it will be done by force”.

Ngige observed that the issues listed in the letter sent in by the non-academic staff unions are already being decided by the Federal Government and should not have come up again in the scheduled meeting.

He said, “I welcome all of you to this meeting. However, I can say here that the meeting, in essence, is to discuss that we received your letter, which we had replied but apart from two Items, all other things listed have been part of our negotiation with the Academic Staff Union Universities(ASUU). These are issues of a shortfall in payment of salaries and the registration of NUPENCO.

Speaking during the opening of negotiation, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Aliyu Waba, said that trade dispute is better discussed around the table and that is the process all the unions wish to be. “I always said that this ministry is so important to the arm of Government where trade union disputes are solved and we have come with an open mind to ensure that agreement is reached.

Representing the Federal Government in the negotiation team are Ngige, the Minister of State for Labour, Prof Ocheni, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang and the representative of the National Income and Wages Commission. Others include Waba, Samson Ugwoke of JAC and host of others.

The meeting later dissolved into executive session while the communique is being expected later today.

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