There are indications that the Federal Government may approve a new union in its bid to break the ranks of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in the eight-month-old strike.
Receiving members of the unregistered Congress of University Academics (CONUA) in his office yesterday, Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, said he had approved a five-man committee to review the denial of registration of the body by the Registrar of Trade Unions.
Though he kept membership of the panel secret, the minister hinted that the team has four weeks to submit its report.
However, the Federal Government will, today at 11:00 a.m., resume negotiations with ASUU in Abuja. Also, government is to begin afresh dialogue with organised labour over the recent increase in the pump price of petrol. The meeting billed for 7:00 p.m. on Sunday night, would hold in Aso Villa.
Ngige said: “The five-man committee has four weeks within which to complete its assignment and submit its recommendations to the Federal Government. The committee will ascertain why the union has not been registered. We believe that no worker should be forced to join any union. It is in the labour law that a worker can opt-out of union. So, it will be unfair to continue to remit the check-off due to such a worker.”
The minister said though members of the proposed union have rights to associate with whomever they want, they should do so in a peaceful atmosphere, adding: “We are with you people in the spirit within the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
CONUA’s National Coordinator, Dr. Niyi Sunmonu, said the association has about 750 members nationwide. He disclosed that the organisation, which was formed in 2018, has presence on 16 campuses.
Stating that they remain ASUU members, he added that they were entitled to have a union they would be proud of.
Indeed, when CONUA first approached the Registrar of Trade Unions on March 12, 2018, the office declined the application based on extant law stated below:
Under Part 1 – Trade Unions No 3 Application for registration of a trade union (2) state thus: “No combination of workers or employers shall be registered as a trade union save with the approval of the Minister on his being satisfied that it is expedient to register the union either by regrouping existing trade unions, registering a new trade union otherwise howsoever ever, but no trade union shall be registered to represent workers or employers in a place where already exists a trade union.”
IN the interim, ASUU has accused the government of deliberately prolonging the strike by insisting on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). It also berated the President Muhammadu Buhari administration for allegedly gambling with the future of Nigerians.
Zonal Coordinator of Sokoto Zone of the union, Dr. Jamilu Shehu, in a statement yesterday in Katsina, said the government should perish truce if it refuses to ratify the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
He claimed that the government was frustrating efforts to resolve the crisis.
In another statement by its Zonal Coordinator for Port Harcourt Zone, Uzo Onyebinama, the union insisted that IPPIS was not a legal instrument that could boost the university system.
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