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Varsity workers suspend strike after deal with government

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From Magnus Eze and Uju James, Abuja

The Federal Government yesterday struck a deal with non-teaching staff of universities which led to the suspension of their two weeks nationwide strike.

With the truce between the two parties, after eight hours of keen negotiations which ended early hours of yesterday, the leadership of the striking unions have directed members to resume work on Monday.

Addressing newsmen in Abuja, after the National Executive Council meeting of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the unions, comprising the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) and the Non Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), the union leaders said they were satisfied with the new agreement with government.

SSANU President, Samson Ugwoke, who read the position of the unions, said they would monitor the implementation by government for a month, and “will not hesitate to return to trenches” should government renege.

“The negotiations we have had since the beginning of the strike have developed a template which we hope will be a panacea to the  conflicts between the university-based non-teaching staff unions and the Federal Government. We have developed an actionable template with specific timeframes to implement salient aspects of the agreement.

“Based on the foregoing and following exhaustive and extensive consultations with our various union organs, we, hereby, announce the suspension of the strike action embarked upon by the Joint Action Committee of NAAT, NASU and SSANU, on the understanding that the time lines agreed with the federal government on the various issues are met.

“We have, consequently, directed our members to resume work on Monday, September 25, 2017. In one month’s time, we shall be reviewing the level of compliance with the agreement and shall not hesitate to resume the strike action if government reneges on the agreements reached or delays in any aspects,” Ugwoke stated.

He said their demands, which spread over a gamut of issues bordering on the sustenance and survival of the university system and welfare of members, among others, were not selfish, but “predicated on an overall love for the system and the interests of our members.”

Ugwoke said the strike was, indeed, avoidable and would have been averted if government had done the needful.

He warned: “We don’t need to tell you that it is conditional; any strike that is suspended is based on agreement.

“But, we hope, given the calibre of people on the government side, who we assume, until otherwise proven, to be honourable gentlemen, true to their words, the agreements would be honoured within the timeframes promised.”

He further charged government to, immediately, begin a process of confidence-building because Nigerian workers no longer trust it.

He said: “The level of confidence in government by Nigerian workers is, indeed, poor and highly eroded as workers no longer have trust in policies of government despite the fact that memorandum of understandings (MoUs) and agreements are reached. “Government must, therefore, embark on a deliberate policy of confidence-building, to shore up trust and belief in its activities. This is the key solution to end the spate of industrial actions in the country.”

On the N21 billion approved by government for earned allowances for universities, the group said the money was for them and members of the Academic Staff of Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU), pointing out that it was in the MoU.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who led the federal government delegation at the conciliatory meeting, assured that the government had agreed to address all the 12 issues raised by the striking workers, including payment of salary shortfalls and unpaid allowances.

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