Workers of the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) numbering over 2000 protest against the continued slashing of their salaries by the management of the university to 80 percent. The protest crippled academic and business activities in the institution.
The university workers were jolted in June when their salaries were slashed, a development the workers rejected it and demanded FUTO management to source for fund to augment the June salary of its members on or before Monday 24th July, 2017.
However, the ultimatum seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as the university’s management went ahead with the salary cut in July leading to the staff demonstration on Monday ahead of looming strike action.
The protesting staff under the three unions, the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) of the university, clutched green leaves, singing solidarity songs and matched from the SEET Roundabout to the university’s senate building which houses the office of the Vice chancellor, Prof Francis Eze and demanded to see the Vice chancellor.
Presenting their grievances to the Vice chancellor, the chairman of Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the three unions, Comrade Ibeji Nwokoma flanked by Comrade Franklin Matthews and Comrade Alemoh Moses, chairmen of SSANU and NASU respectively, said they came to draw the attention of the management of the university to their plight and to the federal government to the shortfall in payment of staff salaries.
Nwokoma stated that the salary cut had led to the workers becoming laughing stocks in town because “we’re now going cap in hand to beg for food from neighbours”.
He insisted that the workers did not mean evil for the administration of Prof. Francis Eze, but maintained that the ongoing slash in their salaries was unacceptable to them.
Nwokeoma threatened that JAC members would down their tools if the management did not desist from slashing their salaries and pay them their outstanding arrears, including promotion benefits.
The JAC chairman said” FUTO is a brand name. We don’t want it to derail. We want the balance of the promotion arrears, equally. Implement the pending promotion not later than September this year. We want peace because there is no alternative to peace”.
Responding, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of administration, Prof Isreal Ndukwe who stood in for the Vice Chancellor commended the protesting workers for their peaceful demonstration and told them that their problem was not the making of the university but the federal government that had been withholding their salaries.
“You gave us assurance that this was going to be a peaceful excercise and you have fulfilled you own bargain. We believe that FUTO staff love the truth and they will like to hear the truth.
“Even at the last general Assembly we discussed this issue . The staff are very good. The economy at the federal level is very bad. FUTO management is not happy that you are getting 80 percent of your salary. We are praying to God that He will touch the hearts of the Federal government to release your money. It is not our making.”
Val Okara Owerri