Posted by From Iyabo Lawal, Ibadan on
UNLESS urgent steps are taken to address some grievances in the nation's ivory tower, the Federal Government may soon have a grave strike situation in its hands.....
UNLESS urgent steps are taken to address some grievances in the nation's ivory tower, the Federal Government may soon have a grave strike situation in its hands.
The Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI) in a statement in Ibadan yesterday threatened a nationwide strike if government does not pay immediately all entitlements of workers to be retrenched in the imminent reform in the health sector.
And in Kano, the state chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which is already on a seven-day warning strike, has expressed doubts over a dialogue to be held today with government to resolve their differences.
SSAUTHRIAI's warning came on the heels of the recently-concluded meeting between the Health Minister, Prof. Eyitayo Lambo and chief executives of tertiary health institutions on the final phase of the health reform agenda in Abuja. SSAUTHRIAI in a statement made available to reporters in Ibadan and signed by its acting National Secretary, Mr. Moshood Akinade, said while it was not opposed to reform of health institutions, it would not tolerate a situation where the said reform results in mass retrenchment of its members.
They argued that where retrenchment becomes unavoidable, provisions must be made for the immediate payment of all the entitlements of the affected workers.
"Where retrenchment is inevitable, those to be affected should be paid all their entitlements on the date of disengagement and if this is not done, there is likelihood of a nationwide industrial action by the union," Akinade warned.
"Certain sections and units of the hospitals are to be contracted out and in the process, will lead to mass retrenchment of workers. These sections and units of the hospitals that have been phased out or being contemplated to be phased or contracted out and the workers to be affected are creation of the statute that established these institutions which has neither been amended or abrogated by any act of the National Assembly," the union warned.
Besides, it argued that the constitution and composition of the Reform Implementation Committee (RIC) in paragraph 4.1 of the guidelines violates the Labour Act Cap 198, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 and Decree 10 of 1985 that established the teaching hospitals and which is also being used for the existence of the federal medical centres.
The group, while expressing its readiness to dialogue with the Federal Government on the vexed issue, however urged the government to strictly comply with the laws of the land on retrenchment, phasing out of sections and units of tertiary health institutions.
The Kano zone of the ASUU at the weekend in Kano expressed doubts over decision by government to resume talks today over issues that led to the current seven-day warning nationwide strike by university teachers. They wondered why government always waits until a strike threat before calling for dialogue.
The teachers from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Bayero University Kano (BUK), University of Sokoto and Kano State University of Technology (KUST), Wudil, expressed pessimism on the outcome of the parley going by their past experiences.
In a statement signed by Mr. Muazu Maiwada and other chairmen of other branches, they noted: "What were the outcomes of previous meetings the government had with the union? What is the likelihood that the Monday, July 3, 2006 meeting of government with the union will be any different from the previous ones?"
If government is genuinely interested in ending the protracted dispute, the teachers insist, it should set up a machinery for the renegotiation of the 2001 ASUU-FGN agreement.
They also enjoined government to obey the Federal High Court order by reinstating their 49 colleagues from University of Ilorin.
Expressing ASUU's willingness to enter into dialogue with government, they warned that government's failure to take positive actions would be met with appropriate reactions from them.
However, the Committee of Pro-chancellors yesterday read a riot act to their action as they vowed to enforce the no-work no-pay rule against them.
The Chairman of the committee, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), who spoke with reporters in Ibadan, faulted the strike embarked upon by ASUU members which he said had become their normal practice.
Babalola, who is the pro-chancellor of the University of Lagos, said he would not hesitate to enforce the clause against any lecturer of the university that participates in the warning strike.
"There was no reason whatsoever why the lecturers should embark on any strike whether warning or total. I believe we have very reasonable and mature leadership in ASUU now, they won't allow it.
"Otherwise, we have our remedy and sanction for anybody who abandons his teaching role in the university," Babalola said.
Continuing, he said: "We will enforce the no-work no-pay rule strictly, even on the present strike. I can assure you that I will enforce it in my own university." While pointing out that strike should be the last option to resort to in the face of any crisis or misunderstanding between the government and industrial unions, the erudite lawyer noted that as parents, the lecturers ought to put the plight of the students into consideration.
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