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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has claimed that the actions and steps taken by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige is one of the key factors responsible for the unexpected delay in resolving the issue between the Federal Government and the university lecturers.
The Union lambasted Ngige accusing him of hijacking the negotiation process at the early stage from the Ministry of Education, even though significant progress was already being recorded towards finding lasting solutions to the strike.
ASUU also accused the Minister of taking upon himself the role of unabashed protagonist in the ongoing dispute with the Federal government for some inexplicable reasons, even when he earlier said that he was not the employer of university academics and advised the union to march to the Federal Ministry of Education with their grievances.
ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke made this known while addressing a press conference in Abuja, on Tuesday. He stated that the contentious issues would have been resolved and the strike called off long ago if not for the ‘overzealousness’ of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige.
He added: ‘The Ministry of Labour and Employment is principally expected to apprehend disputes between employers and employees with a view to settling such disputes. The Ministry, normally, should await reports of disputes by either side of the disputes for settlement.
‘When the Minister apprehends a dispute, he/she must communicate to the parties or their representatives his or her proposal for the resolution of the dispute. However, ASUU has always had serious reservations about the claim of “conciliation” by someone who has taken sides in the dispute, or by unabashed protagonist in the crisis such as the current Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige.
‘It’s contrary to International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions (98, 151 & 154) on collective bargaining and tripartism. It’s also against the principle of natural justice and the doctrine of equality for Dr. Ngige who carries himself as if he has personal scores to settle with ASUU and shoots down the Union everywhere it matters to assume the role of conciliator.
‘The Trade Dispute Act which is the principal legislation for labour relations does not empower the Minister to assume the office of conciliator. This is to guarantee the principle of “good faith” in negotiations, which implies making every effort to reach an agreement, conducting genuine and constructive negotiations and applying them in good faith.
‘A collective agreement is between an employer or group of employers or representative agent, on the one hand, and one or more workers’ organisation on the other. Federal Government, through the Ministry of Education, empanelled the Emeritus Prof. Nimi Briggs Committee to negotiate on its behalf with university-based unions in Nigeria. The aim was to create an agreement between the parties.
‘That Committee is the representative agent of government. Any resolution(s), reached by the parties, such as draft agreements are then ratified by the authorised signatories on behalf of the parties to achieve a binding collective bargaining agreement.
‘ASUU therefore makes bold to say that the Minister of Labour and Employment has taken upon himself the role of unabashed protagonist in our ongoing dispute with the government of Nigeria for some inexplicable reasons. He earlier told whoever cared to listen that he was not the employer of university academics and advised the union to march to the Ministry of Education.
‘Nigerians may wish to know why he has suddenly turned around to constitute himself into impediment to an amicable resolution of the ongoing crisis.’
The Union, thus commended the President’s intervention and assured him their cooperation and support to ensure an end to era of strike in the university system.
It also appreciated the solidarity displayed so far by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its affiliate unions particularly the decision to shut down the country in solidarity protest for ASUU next week Tuesday and Wednesday.