The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment has clarified on not inviting the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to the Thursday meeting at the Presidential Villa.
Media reports last week quoted its Minister, Chris Ngige, saying that relevant agencies would be holding a meeting pertaining the ongoing university strike the next day.
But ASUU President Professor Emmanuel Osodeke in an interview on Channels Television said that his union did not receive any invitation from the Federal Government to attend the meeting.
However, a statement issued by the Ministry’s spokesperson Mr Olajide Oshundun at the weekend explained the meeting was meant for only inter-ministerial departments and agencies committees of the Federal Government and that none of the university based unions including ASUU was invited.
According to the statement, the meeting was called to assess the progress made so far on addressing the few outstanding demands of the striking university workers.
“We will start by making some clarifications on the government side meeting held last Thursday, June 23, 2022, geared towards accelerating the resolution of the multiple strike actions of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other university-based unions, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
“The meeting was meant for the inter-ministerial departments and agencies committees of the Federal Government, including the Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Budget Office of the Federation, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). The committees are reporting to the office of the Chief of Staff to the President and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
“The meeting in question was called to assess the progress made so far on addressing the few outstanding demands of the striking university workers, such as the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of their conditions of service. These two committees were empanelled by the Honourable Minister and the Chief of Staff to the President at the last tripartite plus meetings of the unions and the government side.
“For the avoidance of doubt, none of the unions was invited to last Thursday’s meeting and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Dr Chris Ngige, while briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting last Wednesday, June 22, 2022, clarified that the meeting would hold the next day (Thursday, June 23,2022), for the government side alone.
“As expected, the meeting held and all the stakeholders reported on the various assignments given to them and accordingly, received further briefing and directives from the President in order to accelerate discussions with ASUU. It is hoped that before Wednesday this week, all the various sub-committees will turn in their reports, to enable Mr. President to be briefed fully and for decisions to be taken on the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of the conditions of service, especially the issue of wage increase.
“It is after receiving briefings from the government side that the Ministry of Labour will bring all the stakeholders, including the unions, to a conference table to look at the agreement before signing or endorsement.
“Consequently, all insinuations that the Ministry of Labour does not sympathise with the students, unions and parents, of which the Minister is one, should be disabused. The Minister had on several occasions received commendation from the ASUU leadership for his role in the resolution of the impasse in the education sector. Acting with the Chief of Staff to the President, he empanelled the two committees to work assiduously and according to the law, towards the resolution of the teething issues of payment platform and renegotiation of the conditions of service. The claims made here are verifiable, being out there in public domain.
“Nonetheless, the ministry will not allow itself to be bullied by any union into forcing any payment platform on government, which took a decision to adopt the IPPIS a long time ago in 2017.
“ASUU should know that we are arbitrators and conciliators. We cannot manufacture agreements. Regardless, we are not constrained from listening to the government side and pushing them to do their own bit as quickly as possible.
These clarifications are necessary so that the public will understand our role in the Ministry of Labour as conciliators and arbitrators in a labour dispute.” The statement read.