*Approves the registration of 2 new unions for public university professors nationwide
*Urges the Vice-Chancellors to immediately open universities that have been closed for more than 8 months
Lecturers in public universities are ready to return to work, says Minister of Labor
Regrets that in the last 8 months public universities have been closed and students at home
By Michael Oche
The federal government on Tuesday approved the registration of two new unions for university sector teachers in an attempt apparent to break the ranks of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Labor and Employment Minister Chris Ngige, who announced the approval, urged vice -university chancellors to immediately open schools that have been closed for more than 8 months to allow teachers to start teaching.
The two registered unions are the Congress of University Scholars of Nigeria (CONUA) and the Nigerian Association of University Professors of Medicine and Dentistry (NAMD A).
Ngige said that many university professors in public universities had indicated their willingness to return to work while negotiations continued, but were hampered by ASUU officials, while the VC watched helplessly.
The Minister said that the two groups of lecturers have since 2018 requested that their own university associations be registered as unions to organize their members because they do not share the models, objectives, modus operandi, mission and vision of ASUU.
According to him, they cite only under article 40 of the Constitution, they have a right to freedom of association with persons of like-minded academic vision and mission.
He said that for the past eight months, classrooms in public universities across the country have been closed and students kept at home by the strike launched by the Staff Union Academic University of Nigeria (ASUU) and this ugly situation has persisted despite a series of pledges to resolve the trade dispute by the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Education.
“In accordance with the provisions of the Commercial Disputes Act CAP TS, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, this strike has been apprehended and conciliations have been made in this ministry on February 22, 2022 and March 1 2022 However, all efforts at reconciliation have failed , which resulted in the commercial dispute being referred to the National Labor Court of Nigeria (NICN) for adjudication in accordance with statutory procedures for the settlement of commercial disputes.
“In NICN, an injunctive order interlocutory was obtained asking the union to get back to work while the case was heard on the merits, an order that ASUU management and members refused to obey. Interestingly, many university professors in public universities had indicated their willingness to return to work while negotiations continued, but were blocked by officials the ASUU, while the VC watched helplessly,” he said.
He explained that Section 3(2) of the Trade Unions Act, CAP. T 14, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004 gives the Honorable Minister of Labor and ‘Employment the power to consolidate an existing union of workers or employers.
The article in reference states that “no combination of workers or employers may be registered as a trade union without the approval of the Minister after ascertaining that he is expedient to register the Syndicate or by grouping the existing Syndicates. Registration of a new union or otherwise however….
He said that CONUA had applied for registration since 2018 and cited irreconcilable differences as they do not believe in recurring strikes as the solution to each social unrest.
He said that the Ministry of Labor and Employment had set up a committee to examine the merits of their application, adding that the committee had judged the merits of the application and had recommended the approval of the registration of the association by the Registrar of Trade Unions (RTU) since 2020 But for the advent of the COVID-pandemic- and the recurring ASUU strike, it would have been done.
He said, “These associations will exist side by side with ASUU in Nigerian Universities in the spirit and principles of the fundamental convention of the International Labor Organization (ILO) our . 40 & 98 which relate respectively to freedom of association and the protection of the right to organize, and to the right to organize and collective bargaining; as well as the enthronement of the four (4) pillars and principles of the Decent Work Agenda (DWA) deemed necessary for social justice and equity in the world of work. all rights and privileges accruing to this academic association/organization, including, but not limited to, receipt of dues from their members in accordance with section 14 of the Trade Unions Act. They must also have membership in the Nigerian University Pension Management Company Limited (NUPEMCO) and being on the CONUAS salary structure/scheme, they are also entitled to Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) and all other allowances attached thereto. ASUU, despite the wrangling, has seen protests from a large majority of its members, including CONUA and NAMDA members,” he added.