The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has condemned the attempt by the Federal Government to turn academics into casual workers through its “pro rata” payment for 18 days’ work in the month of October. The union suspended its 8-month long strike and asked universities to resume full academic activities from October 14, 2022. This was after the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians and the speaker of the House of Representatives, Honorable Femi Gbajabiamila. The union agreed to suspend the strike to allow the stakeholders attend to their requests.
However, the union has come to a resolution at its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting not to embark on another strike action. This was contained in a statement released by the body on November 9, 2022. In the statement, the ASUU national president, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, recalled that the union suspended its eight-month industrial action in obedience to the order of the National Industrial Court (NIC) and further interventions of well-meaning Nigerians and Hon. Gbajabiamila.
Osodeke says this mode of payment is unprecedented.
The national president revealed that the union deliberated on developments since the suspension of the strike and the NEC noted with dismay that paying academics on a “pro rata” basis, like casual workers, is unprecedented in the history of university-oriented labor relations. He said, “Payment for 18 days as the October 2022 salaries of academics is unacceptable thereby portraying us as daily paid workers. This is not only an aberration but a contravention of all known rules of engagement in any contract of employment for academics the world over.”
He further added that the response of the government towards ASUU’s demonstration of trust after the suspension of its strike on October 14 was the “pro rata” payment. Some of the lecturers are said to have been paid only 21,000 naira as salary for the month. This is what the ASUU president argues portrays them as daily paid, casual workers, just as if they worked in a factory where there are no labor laws or insurance of any kind.
FG denies paying ASUU half salaries for October.
The Federal Government denied the union’s accusation of being paid half salaries for October. The head of Press and Public Relations at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr. Olajide Oshundun, announced this in a statement that he signed on Saturday, November 5, 2022, in Abuja. He replied that the ministry was reacting to reports about alleged selective treatment and half-salary payment to ASUU members. He said those reports are grossly inaccurate, misleading and barefaced distortion of facts.
He acknowledged that members of ASUU were paid October salary “pro rata” and not half salary as the media widely reported. He said that the “pro rata” was done because they cannot be paid for work not done. He also denied that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, directed the Accountant-General of the Federation to pay university lecturers half their salary. He said that Ngige only directed the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning to restore the salaries of the academics.
All concerned parties in suspense as they look out for what next to come.
After these incidents, parents and guardians, students and university lecturers are expectant of what is to come. In the last four years, ASUU has embarked on industrial strike action at least four times, the longest being in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic lasting for nine months. Before that, ASUU has gone on strike for more than five times. Concerned parties are beginning to view this tussle between FG and ASUU as normal occurrences, and some privileged students have started going with other options such as private universities and travelling abroad.