ASUU be­gins strike, labour mo­bilises for to­mor­row

•Work­ers in­sist on N30,000 min­i­mum wage • Vow to dis­rupt flight op­er­a­tions, oth­ers

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE - From Collins Olayinka, Ter­hemba Daka, Kings­ley Jeremiah, Kanayo Umeh (Abuja), Wole Oye­bade, Glo­ria Ehi­aghe (La­gos), Muyiwa Adeyemi, Sun­day Ag­bolu­aje (Ibadan), Tina Todo, Elizabeth Adah (Cal­abar), John Akubo (Lokoja), Mur­tala Ade­wale (Kano)

AS its to­mor­row’s dead­line for strike draws close, or­gan­ised labour did not at­tend the con­cil­ia­tory meet­ing with the Fed­eral Govern­ment’s team in Abuja yes­ter­day. It said it was not in­vited.

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, the Aca­demic Staff Union of Uni­ver­si­ties (ASUU) has asked its mem­bers na­tion­wide to be­gin an in­def­i­nite strike.

The dis­clo­sure fol­lowed a meet­ing leaders of the union held at the Fed­eral Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, Akure, Ondo State. The union took the de­ci­sion due to poor fund­ing of uni­ver­si­ties, said ASUU Na­tional Pres­i­dent Prof. Abio­dun Ogun­yemi.

Sources in the labour move- ment told The Guardian last night that its mem­bers would, how­ever, at­tend the meet­ing slated for the of­fice of the Sec­re­tary to the Govern­ment of the Fed­er­a­tion (SGF), Boss Mustapha, to­day, be­cause it re­ceived an invi- tation.

It was fur­ther learnt that the or­gan­ised labour would at­tend the meet­ing un­der the aus­pices of the tri­par­tite com­mit­tee on min­i­mum wage. The Guardian­learnt that the or­gan­ised labour would al- so not be rene­go­ti­at­ing the N30,000 fig­ure but would

rather push for the sub­mis­sion of the tri­par­tite com­mit­tee’s re­port to Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari for on­ward trans­mis­sion to the Na­tional Assem­bly for leg­isla­tive ac­tion. Sources also con­fided in The Guardianthat the or­gan­ised pri­vate sec­tor aligns it­self with the po­si­tion of the labour move­ment on the need for Buhari to of­fi­cially re­ceive the re­port and trans­mit the same to the Assem­bly.

Mean­while labour chap­ters na­tion­wide have be­gun put­ting fin­ish­ing touches to their mo­bil­i­sa­tion for the strike.

Work­ers’ unions in the avi­a­tion in­dus­try said they would em­bark on the in­dus­trial ac­tion. The unions also de­manded full com­pli­ance from mem­bers, with a view to ground­ing flight ser­vices na­tion­wide. The unions, in a joint state­ment by Com­rade Frances Ak­in­jole of the Air Traf­fic Se­nior Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­ria (ATSSSAN), Com­rade Ocheme Aba of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Air­craft Pi­lots and En­gi­neers (NAAPE), Com­rade Te­menu Aki­nola As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Na­tional Union of Air Trans­port Em­ploy­ees (NUATE) and Com­rade Ab­dul Rasaq Saidu of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­rian Avi­a­tion Pro­fes­sion­als (ANAP), said the strike would be in­def­i­nite.

In an ear­lier state­ment, na­tional pres­i­dent of NUATE, Ben Nnabue, in­sisted the ac­tion is “due to the in­abil­ity of the Fed­eral Govern­ment to agree on the new na­tional min­i­mum wage.” He added: “All flights op­er­at­ing in and out of Nige­rian air­ports shall be af­fected by this in­dus­trial ac­tion.”

There could be scarcity of petroleum prod­ucts be­gin­ning to­mor­row if unions in the oil sec­tor back the plan. Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of the Nige­ria Union of Petroleum and Nat­u­ral Gas (NUPENG) Adamu Song, in a phone in­ter­view, said the union would sup­port the strike , as long as the United Labour Congress (ULC), to which it be­longs, also sup­ports it.

Asked if there would be fuel in cir­cu­la­tion dur­ing the pe­riod how­ever, Song said: “We just re­turned (from a meet­ing on PIGB in Lon­don). We are pressed with so much of what is hap­pen­ing. You know, there are fac­tors and there is a court ac­tion. We need to con­sult with our of­fi­cers who are on ground to brief us prop­erly and take de­ci­sion based on the in­for­ma­tion we get.”

NUPENG Na­tional Pres­i­dent Wil­liams Ak­poreha told The Guardianhe was at a meet­ing and that dis­cus­sions were still on­go­ing. A con­clu­sion is yet to be reached on the mat­ter, he said.

Also, Na­tional Pub­lic Re­la­tions Of­fi­cer of the Petroleum and Nat­u­ral Gas Se­nior Staff As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­ria (PENGASSAN) For­tune Obi said the union, which is an af­fil­i­ate of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) is in sup­port of the strike. He, how­ever, added: “The cen­tral work­ing com­mit­tee will meet and will take a de­ci­sion. We will mon­i­tor the event and call a press con­fer­ence. There are ways to go about it. You know our in­dus­try is a crit­i­cal one.” The NLC in Kano di­rected its mem­bers to pre­pare for the strike. It threat­ened that the ac­tion would paral­yse ac­tiv­i­ties across all sec­tors and ground flight op­er­a­tions at the Mal­lam Aminu Kano In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

The State NLC chair­man, Kabiru Ado Min­jibir, said: “I am now di­rect­ing the en­tire work­ers both at fed­eral, state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments to em­bark on a strike ac­tion from 12:00 a.m. on Tues­day, in com­pli­ance with the na­tion­wide strike de­clared by the mother body, to press home NLC’S de­mand for N30,000 min­i­mum wage. The work­ers have de­cided to match force with force. While the govern­ment de­clared no work no pay, we will also in­voke the doc­trine of no N30,000 min­i­mum wage no vote in next year’s elec­tion.” The TUC chap­ter in Oyo State said there is no go­ing back on to­mor­row’s strike. State chair­man and chair­man of Pub­lic Ser­vice Joint Ne­go­ti­at­ing Coun­cil (PSJNC), Oyo State coun­cil, Em­manuel Ogundi­ran, said all ar­range­ments had been made to em­bark on the in­dus­trial ac­tion. Ac­cord­ing to him, there will be no re­treat or sur­ren­der.

On the al­le­ga­tion that labour is be­ing used by op­po­si­tion politi­cians ahead of next year’s gen­eral elec­tion, he an­swered: “If they said we are be­ing used, then let the rul­ing party use us. But no­body is us­ing us. What is driv­ing our ag­i­ta­tion is hunger. Let the govern­ment give us N40,000 and see. When you’re not do­ing well as a leader, you will al­ways find ex­cuses. All the ex­cuses are not un­founded.”

The Joint Ac­tion Front (JAF) de­clared its sup­port for the strike. In a state­ment by its chair­per­son, Dr Dipo Fashina and JAF sec­re­tary, Abio­dun Aremu, the group said the ac­tion would be sus­pended only if the Fed­eral Govern­ment adopts N30,000 as the new min­i­mum wage. It urged the Fed­eral Govern­ment to pre­vail on the min­is­ter of labour to sub­mit the re­port of the tri­par­tite com­mit­tee that agreed on the N30,000 min­i­mum. It also asked the Fed­eral Govern­ment to pre­pare a N30,000 min­i­mum wage bill and send the same to the Na­tional Assem­bly.

The chair­man of the NLC chap­ter in Cross River State, Pas­tor John Ushie, said: “Labour is ready to em­bark on the strike if the Fed­eral Govern­ment fails to meet its de­mand for N30,000 as min­i­mum wage.” There were, how­ever, mixed re­ac­tions on the loom­ing strike. Mrs. Elizabeth Ugi, a civil ser­vant in Cal­abar, wel­comed it. “We, the civil ser­vants, are the peo­ple who boost the na­tion’s econ­omy yet eat so lit­tle of it. Our leaders are the ones en­joy­ing our sweat. Enough is enough! The Fed­eral Govern­ment must com­ply with labour’s de­mand,” she said.

But a busi­ness­woman, Pa­tience Inah, dis­agreed. “I am not in sup­port of the strike nei­ther am I in sup­port of the min­i­mum wage. In­cre­ment in salary will lead to in­fla­tion which will in turn af­fect my busi­ness neg­a­tively,” she ar­gued.

But a civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tion, Net­work for Ac­count­abil­ity and Trans­parency Cru­sade (NATC), con­demned the planned strike, de­spite a sub­sist­ing court or­der. It al­leged “wide­spread spec­u­la­tion in some quar­ters that some labour leaders have held a se­ries of meet­ings with a for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date of north­ern ex­trac­tion to in­sist and re­ject over­tures from govern­ment.” In a state­ment, NATC urged “labour leaders to rise above their in­ter­ests by re­ject­ing what­ever over­tures have been ex­tended to them by un­scrupu­lous politi­cians.”

PHOTO: ODITA SUN­DAY

U.S. Am­bas­sador to Nige­ria, Stu­art Syming­ton with chil­dren of Makoko dur­ing his visit to ben­e­fi­cia­ries of “Slum to School Project” at the Makoko Angli­can School in La­gos… yes­ter­day.

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