National President of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) Comrade Anderson Ezeibe speaks on the pending disputes between the union and federal government which may result into shutting down the sector any moment. MOSES JOHN brings the details.
Outcome of the meeting
If you recall very well just 2 days before the economy of the country was shut down as a result of the pandemic, we finished our 97th
NEC meeting at the Federal Polytechnic Ede, Osun state where we issues a 15 day ultimatum for an industrial action on the ground of 7 clearly identified issues which we expect the government to handle within 15 days or face an industrial action from our members, but unfortunately, the pandemic took over and what we did essentially today was to review our position from then to now and then look at the resolution and the ultimatum that was issued to the government because of the pandemic and the shutdown, the union was unable to embark on the strike at the end of the 15 days ultimatum because nothing could happen , there was no movement at that period. So today we appraised the decision today on item by item basis and also look at other emerging situations in the sectors and then took decisions with respect to those issues.
The covid-19 era
Yes, it is true that with the pandemic within this lockdown, there were severe limitations on our mobilization activity and the responses of government, and its agencies to those situations, but it should not also escape our knowledge that effective July this year, which was about 3 months ago that the nation started opening up and as we speak now we are almost there completely. So we should be talking about what government can do, because even as at then, we were still calling their attention to the fact that there are subsisting issues in the sector that needs their attention and it would be in our interest that these issues are resolved so that it does not affects resumption after the pandemic, so that is what is key.
So it is not as if it is about the 15 days ultimatum, we will say it has already pass now, and so as a union, we will not be running foul of any laws, if our members decides to withdraw their services, pandemic or no pandemic, because after the pandemic, there has been enough time for the government to address these issues or engage us in a more productive way.
Issues on contention
On an item by item basis, we reviewed the position of things, the first item there has to do with the non-implementation of needs assessment reports of public polytechnics and colleges in Nigeria since 2014 and also when we went on strike in 2017, the government promised to release the sum of 15billion naira as revitalisation funds for the sector in lieu of the implementation of needs assessment reports, but unfortunately, neither have they release the 15billion as promised nor the needs assessment implementation guidelines.
What we are having today, is the further indictment of the sector because every body is at cross road with respect to save resumption of schools, because the gulf in terms of facility is very glaring now, the Covid-19 has really validated the position of that needs assessment reports, so we are saying the government are supposed to start implementation of the needs assessment or make definite statements so within the period march till date, there has not been any improvement on that particular item, it is still where it was before now, the needs assessment has not been implemented and the revitalization funds has not been released.
Now, we also have the issues of salary owed our members in different states, like Abia , Imo, Benue, Kogi, ondo, Ogun and Edo states where our members are owed, for salaries ranging from 3- 21 months and for all of them, it is so far only in Abia state that we are seeing a little light, because of the steps taken by the union, 1 month salary has just been paid, though in respect to our resolution and agreement we sign with them.
For other states, our people are still owed, in Benue state for 5 months, in Edo state is 6 months, in Imo state is 3 months in Ogun state, non of the schools were paid any money through out the Covid period, all the 6 polytechnics in Ogun state. In Osun state, for 30 months they were paid half salaries, so effectively they are being owed for 15 months and so that’s the situation and as we speak, the situation remain the same aside from the resolution we reached with the Abia state government, which we are following diligently in terms of monitoring.
On the issue of minimum wage, you know that the government started implementing since April 2019 and a lot of agencies of government have been paid at the federal level in December including the backlog, but for our sector, our members have not been paid, we are owed 10 months in arrears of the consequential adjustment of the minimum wage, and we have been talking about this as we speak, that situation has not change.
Money owed our members have not been paid, and it is only in 2 out of the 36 states that the minimum wage has been Implemented, so in 34 states, it has not been implemented, and then in the 2 states where it is being implemented, our members are owed arrears as well.
So it has become a past time for government at different level to become violator of the law, because the minimum wage in itself is a law, so that is an act of parliament, so this people are violating it with impunity and our members are at the receiving end of this impunity because they are denied of their legitimate emoluments. So that has not changed, despite all manners of assurances particularly from the accountant general office that is in charge of the IPPIS directorate that these arrears would be paid, but as we speak, it has not been released.
There is the issue with respect to our 2010 agreement with the government, we signed this agreement in 2010, and it is supposed to be renegotiated after every 5 years, so it is supposed to be renegotiated in 2015 according to the contents of the agreement itself, in 2015 there was no such report, our union had to go on strike in 2017 to get the government constitute a renegotiation committee, and then suddenly, the committee stopped sitting, immediately our unions submitted her demands for proper negotiation, the committee stopped sitting, so as we speak, the renegotiation of the agreement signed between our union and the government has not been concluded.
We have as one of the outcome of the 2017 strike which our union embarked on, part of the resolution was the establishment of a monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to address the issues that will bring industrial harmony a committee that was called a ‘rapid response committee’ was setup at the federal ministry of education, led by the permanent secretary himself and a lot of directors and the rectors, the chief executives in our institutions were represented and our regulatory bodies were represented, and it is that form we were using to pursue a lot of lingering issues in the sectors, for instance, arrears that were supposed to be paid our members from implementation of CONTISS 15 Migration, issues about scheme of services, promotion arrears, non released of short falls in the sector.
We are making reasonable effort on the platforms of this committee tracking the resolution of these issues, but suddenly in a unilateral basis, the government through the federal ministry of education on its own, stopped that meeting and for about 2 years now, that committee has not sat. So the implication is that, all these issues we are tracking has suffered terribly, as we speak now, our scheme of service condition of service has not been released, it is still hanging, the CONTISS 15 migration arrears is still hanging, our members are owed promotion arrears 2018, 2019, short falls, in every of the federal polytechnics we are owed short falls. In Federal polytechnic Eko, they are owed for 33 months, as a consequence of the termination of that platform that was serving as a resolution mechanisms for this item.
As we speak, that Rapid Response Committee has not been brought back, that platform has not been restored.
In 2019, 18th of June, the president signed the bill for the amendment of the Polytechnics act into law, so it is expected though a new legal regime has set in the section, but it might interest you to know that, that legal regime, a lot of operators of the system has been observing it in a breach, including the government.
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