The General Secretary of Non Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), Peters Adeyemi, in this interview with Collins Olayinka, explains the genesis of the salary payment system in federal universities, which, at present, threatens industrial peace.
Let us talk about the current disagreement between the Federal Government and the Joint Action Committee of NASU and SSANU. What are the issues?
Basically, I think our responsibility has thrown us into this crisis. We want to show to the world that we in NASU and SSANU are responsible trade unions and to support the Federal Government’s measure to instil probity and accountability in the system.
There was a time when there was shortfall in personnel emoluments where the government was not able to fully fund personnel emolument in the universities, and the idea was mooted that if we had keyed into IPPIS, this problem of shortfall in personnel emolument where universities were paying in 60%, 70% salaries of workers would not have been there.
So, we then decided to embrace the IPPIS after the software was presented to the unions and there was an assurance that the platform would take on board all the peculiarities that are in the university system. We were assured that allowances contained in our 2009 FGN agreement would be captured.
But unfortunately, the first experiment started in February 2020. That experiment was a total disaster because a lot of our members were not paid at all, some of them were under-paid and even in some cases there were people who were over-paid and all the allowances contained in our 2009 agreement with the Federal Government were not captured at all.
The anomalies noticed since February, have remained unresolved.
Allowances that were omitted include the hazard allowance, which is part of the 2009 agreement was stopped by IPPIS. The National Housing Fund, which has not been in existence in the universities suddenly resurfaced. IPPIS refused to pay our allowances that are legitimate, but went ahead to import what was not in existence. There are a few more other allowances that are not captured by the IPPIS system.
Then we have the issue of third party deductions, which covers loans, welfare, cooperative, union dues. From February till date, IPPIS has been deducting money, warehousing it and refusing to pay those who were supposed to receive the money.
At a point, we started feeling that maybe this is a deliberate attempt to strangulate the union because from February till date, they have denied us our check off dues, which were deducted but not remitted to us.
We have declared a trade dispute, and so far nothing has happened. The unions took the decision to embark on a strike action due to the lackadaisical attitude of government.
What is the level of interaction between the unions and ministries of education and labour at finding solutions to the challenge?
For the Minister of Education, there are issues that have been outstanding and some of these issues include our earned allowance and a few others. So, when he was reappointed both NASU and SSANU wrote to congratulate him and used the opportunity to seek an audience with him, with a view to discussing a whole lot of issues affecting the sector. We did this last year and we are yet to receive a response from him.
In fairness to the Minister of Labour and Employment, once or twice he and his team in the Ministry tried to organise a virtual meeting, but we refused on the ground that the issues are straightforward and clear.
We have written to the government outlining the issues and we are of the strong conviction that even without any virtual meeting those issues can be addressed because what meeting do you require to release third party deductions? Unions dues, which IPPIS deducted from them because IPPIS office have the unions’ bank details. We therefore said if the willingness to remit the deducted funds and rectify the payment of emoluments is there, there is no need for a meeting to make that happen.
It is very obvious that the Federal Government and the IPPIS office are more interested in claiming that IPPIS is able to save money from payment of emoluments in the universities to the detriment of the workers.
But you cannot save money when you refuse to pay people their legitimate right. Savings should come from illegitimate spending in the system and that was one of the reasons we decided to key into the IPPIS system so that the government will be able to at least make some progress in the area of mismanagement of funds and all the rest of it.
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