Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige has said the Federal Government did not promise to pay striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) members before they return to the classroom.
Ngige said this in a statement on Tuesday in Abuja.
The minister said it was false and discomforting for ASUU to wrongly inform the public that the Federal Government agreed to pay all withheld salaries before it would resume work.
“The truth of the matter is that a ‘gentleman agreement’ was reached at the last meeting in which ASUU agreed to call off strike before December 9, 2020. The minister in turn agreed that once the strike is called off, he would get a presidential waiver for ASSU to be paid the remainder of their salaries on or before December 9, 2020,” the statement said.
It added: “The Minister of Labour and Employment informed that he had consulted with the Minister of Education on getting a waiver on the issue of ‘No Work, No Pay’ as stipulated in Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, Cap. T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004, but a reservation has been made concerning this request because of the ongoing strike by ASUU. The minister, therefore, agreed to work on this to be actualised before Wednesday, December 9, 2020.
“For avoidance of doubt and for clarity, it should be stated that ASUU began warning strike on March 9, 2020 and went into full-blown industrial action on the 23rd of the same month over IPPIS payment platform.
“With the lockdown at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the minister got a special presidential approval to demonstrate good faith to ASUU members that government is not on vengeful mission or out to starve ASUU to death as some of them are claiming.
“They were subsequently paid for two months of February and March after which it was extended to April, May and June, the months they were on strike, on compassionate ground, bringing it to five months. This was done because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its deleterious effects on incomes of all workers and their families as government reasoned that ASUU members also have families.
“The minister later invited ASUU to a virtual conciliatory meeting, which they turned down. He further requested them to show good faith over the five months’ salaries government made to them by returning to classroom and start virtual and online teaching, as being done by private universities, while government sorts out the rest of their requests; they also refused.”