The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) has threatened to embark on an indefinite industrial action if the federal government fails to address the problems highlighted by the union after the 21-day ultimatum issued.
The polytechnic lecturers issued a 21 day ultimatum, starting from October 2, for the government to proffer solutions to the lingering challenges faced by the workers.
The union embarked on a strike in November 2017, to draw the attention of the government to the neglect of the technical education sector.
A statement released on Sunday, the president of ASUP, Usman Dutse, stated that the decision of the union to withdraw its services was made following the National Executive Council meeting aimed at the implementation of the agreement reached with the union by the federal government.
Mr Dutse noted that despite the fact that the union suspended the 2017 industrial action, the government has failed to implement the agreement signed by the two parties.
According to the president, issues that were not addressed include the non-implementation of the NEEDS Assessment report of 2014; non-release of promotion arrears of members and persistent shortfalls in the personnel releases to federal polytechnics since 2016.
Among others are the non-payment of negotiated allowances in polytechnics and other staff entitlements in many state-owned institutions; non passage of the amendment bill of the Polytechnics Act and the victimisation of union officers.
He explained that the Memorandum of Settlement (MOS) signed in 2017, which led to the suspension of the industrial action, prescribed a monitoring mechanism in the form of a rapid response team led by the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education.
“In August, 2017 the committee for the renegotiation of the FGN/ASUP 2010 Agreement was inaugurated by the Minister for Education.
“The committee was saddled with the responsibility of renegotiating the last agreement signed between the government and the union since 2010 was due for renegotiation by 2015 according to the prescriptions of the agreement and in line with ILO conventions.
“Our union met on the 2nd of October, 2018 in Abuja to appraise the extent of execution of these activities as well as discuss other pressing issues in the sector.”
“The NEEDS Assessment report of 2014 remains unimplemented while the government’s excuse of “searching for sources of funding” increasingly becoming watery in the face of reports of recent releases to a sister sector as revitalization fund, amplifying the echoes of discrimination.”
“Shortfalls in personnel releases still persist in some Federal Polytechnics while arrears of same shortfalls are still owed; allowances of our members are still owed in arrears and unpaid in many institutions without any effort at properly situating the responsibility of paying these negotiated allowances.”
“Salaries are still owed in many state owned institutions with some owed up to ten months arrears,” he said.
Speaking on the deduction of check off dues, pension, and welfare benefits of the union members and their victimisation, he said, “Our officers are still being victimised, with new grounds of tyranny being broken in reports of purported proscriptions of our union, in some states.
“The rapid response team set up for the purpose of monitoring the implementation of the terms of the MOS, operates in serial default of its own terms”.
Mr Dutse said the team designed to meet on a monthly basis to assess the performance indices in the MoS, has regrettably met thrice in nearly one year, despite letters written by the union to condemn that.
On the renegotiation of the union’s agreement with the government, he said the meeting was stalled and was yet to commence in actual terms.
“The committee was designed to complete its assignment on or before December, 2017. The committee had its last (and 3rd) meeting in April, 2018 and is yet to reconvene despite letters from our union urging the committee to do the needful in view of the strategic importance of the process to industrial harmony across our campuses.”
Forcing of members into IPPIS
The union also warned the government to order the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) to stop intimidating its members into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) platform when their emoluments have not been secured.
“We are appalled that the NBTE had kick started this new arm twisting regime by convening a meeting with the IPPIS and the managements of polytechnics without the unions, where they resolved to force our members into the platform.
“We are therefore led (by) these to doubt the sincerity of the renegotiation process in its entirety.”
On the renewed plans to ‘force members into the IPPIS’, he said “Our union has been on the discussion table with officials of IPPIS as well as NBTE on modalities for a smooth and safe enrolment of members into the IPPIS platform.
“However, in an apparent display of betrayal, the NBTE, which has refused to commit to the successful conclusion of the renegotiation process, is employing underhand strategies to force our members into the platform with or without our emoluments secured.
“Following these observations, the meeting of the NEC of our union has been left with no other alternative than to return to the trenches to fight for the sector, our members, our students and indeed, the Nigerian state.”