ASUP decries absence of govt officials at negotiation meetings

Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUPAcademic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP
Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP

Striking Polytechnic lecturers have urged Nigerians to appeal to the federal government to show seriousness in addressing their grouse.

The lecturers embarked on an indefinite nationwide strike on December 12, joining their university colleagues who have been on strike since November 4.

The strike is over the non-implementation of the 2009 and 2017 agreement reached with the union by the federal government, nonpayment of allowances, victimisation of union members, among others.

The union lamented that none of the items in these different agreements has been successfully implemented across institutions covered in the sector.

The 2018 strike is rooted in the inability of the government to implement agreements since 2010 from the federal to the respective state governments.

The details of the agreements cover working conditions of members of the union; review of obsolete legal regimes and other policy documents which serve as governing instruments in the sector; non-existence/ deplorable state of the existing facilities including classrooms, libraries, students’ hostels, laboratories, workshops, studios and office accommodation, etc.

It also includes discriminatory policies against the sector and its products, victimisation of union leaders and non-payment of members’ salaries in several states.

The government, on December 17, resumed talks with the leaders of the association, over the ongoing strike in public polytechnics and both parties agreed to reconvene on January 10.

Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday, the national president of the union, Usman Dutse, said the scheduled January 10 meeting could not hold as the government was not available to facilitate the meeting.

According to him, “who will preside on the meeting when we were told the permanent secretary, Sunny Echono, and the minister of education, Adamu Adamu are not available?”

“Actually the meeting could not hold today because the key officers are said to be indisposed. So, they were absent in the meeting and the meeting cannot continue in their absence and the strike is critical to the sector. The issues are germane and very central to most of the sectors,” he said.

Mr Dutse said the union was not happy with the development because it was not comfortable with the fact that the education sector was down and the intervention needed is not given to it.

“Nigerians are waiting to hear the outcome of this meeting because our children are at home, schools are closed down, parents and stakeholders are waiting for the outcome. I want to use this opportunity to call the world, (people who have interest in the sector) to talk to those who are involved in this issue, particularly the side of the government,” he said.

He said the union is agitating the interest of the sector because the key things central to the struggle are the issues of the review of the Polytechnic Act and the NEEDS assessment.

“The Polytechnic Act is no more relevant to the demands of the sector. So, efforts have been made several times, (for the past eleven years) up till now. From the look of things, because of the delay from the side of government, these things may go down the drain and sincerely, we in the sector will not allow that,” he said.

“We need you to inform our students and parents and those interested, this struggle is a collective struggle.

“Pressure should not only be on the unions to call off the strike. They should also put the pressure on the government because the review of the Act is the duty of the government,” he said.

He said the union did not know the next date of reconvening until government writes to them.

“Actually the principal officers of the agencies concerned weren’t present and they’ll be the one to determine the new date,” he said.

When asked if the union will boycott the 2019 election to press forward their demands, Mr Dutse said the union will not stop its members from participating in other national activities.

“We are not sabotaging the government. We are fighting for our rights and we have told our members that they have the rights to participate in the national function. Academic activities in our Institutions should be suspended till we call off the strike,” he said.

When contacted to know why government officials were unable to attend the meeting, the spokesperson of the ministry of education, Ben Goong, said it is a matter of tight schedule, as “everyone is busy now.”

“It’s a very busy period for everybody. The meeting held though,” he concluded.

ASUP also went on strike in November 2017 but suspended it after two weeks when the federal government agreed to implement the recommendations of the 2014 NEEDS assessment.

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