The botched meeting between the Nigerian government and non-academic workers of universities has finally kicked off in Abuja.
The meeting was scheduled for Monday but leaders of the workers’ unions stayed away claiming they did not receive formal invitation.
It is to seek an end to a nationwide strike by the workers, which began Wednesday last week. Nigerian university teachers under the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, had earlier begun their own strike on August 13 and will also hold an executive meeting on Thursday to review their stance on the government’s offer.
The government’s meeting with the Joint Account Committee, JAC, of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities, NASU, and the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT, kicked off Thursday noon in Abuja at the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
At a previous meeting with the unions last week, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said the issues they were raising were largely the same as the demands over which members of ASUU are on strike.
“On issues of earned allowances, staff salaries and registration of NUPEMCO, the government has gone far in the implementation, ” Mr. Ngige said.
In trying to discourage the unions from going on strike, the minister had also reminded them of section 43 of the Trade Union Act, which stipulates “No work, No pay”.
The National President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba, had also counselled both parties that it is good to resolve issues at a round table through collective bargaining.
“Times without number, we have come to the same table to address these issues,” he said.
But the leaders of the three unions had insisted on proceeding with their own strike action until their demands were met.
“In January, we gave a 35-day notice for the strike but the government did not call us for negotiation before we embarked on the strike,” Samson Ugwoke, who is the Chairman of the unions’ JAC, said.
“More painful is the issue of staff schools in which the National Industrial Court ordered the reopening and reinstatement of the staff, which the government is yet to implement.”
He said the unions were open to dialogue to end the strike.