The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) says the current strike it has embarked on will continue, except the Federal Government meets all existing demands.
Addressing the resumed conciliation meeting with the union on Tuesday, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige said government was surprised ASUU negated the understanding and assurances it gave through the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council(NIREC) led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar and the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria , Rev. Supo Ayokunle.
According to the Minister who was in Botswana for the meeting of the African Regional Labour Administrative Centre(ARLAC) when ASUU declared action, said he thought the university teachers and their employer, the Ministry of Education would have resolved the areas of disputes within days.
“I sincerely thought ASUU and the Ministry of Education would have resolved the issues, which hopefully are not major areas of dispute, warranting industrial action. To my surprise , I came back , and the strike is still on. Be that as it may, it is the mandate of my Ministry to apprehend industrial disputes wherever they occur and we have apprehended this.
“ From this negotiation we are having today, ASUU will appreciate that government means no harm. This is because even if there are still lapses in implementation of agreement , they are not such that will lead to industrial action. To that extent , we have to do everything possible to resolve this.
But I must tell you that on the government side, they were taken by surprise in that before then, NIREC met with you(ASUU) and reported to the President. Having met with you (ASUU) and having given the details of their meeting with you, we sincerely hoped we won’t again take this route of industrial action . So , the government side is taken by surprise- Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance and all are taken aback.”
Ngige, however, assured that the strike had been apprehended by his ministry and that the ongoing conciliation would prepare ground for an expanded meeting which will involve NIREC.
“It is my mandate to apprehend industrial disputes and this has been apprehended so we can discuss, and later expand to what is called tripartite plus meeting, involving members of NIREC who are top religious and traditional rulers, we cannot push aside. And that is as soon as we are done and agree on issues here.”
The minister expressed optimism that the strike would be called off soon to enable students go back to school.
“It should not be one month strike. In fact there is nothing like one month strike or warning strike in labour parlance. Strike is strike. We want this to end as soon as possible, as we sort out all grey areas in the agreement as the ILO Principles At Work allows for renegotiation of Collective Bargaining Agreement. So we go back to the draft agreement. We must avoid another situation where our children bear the brunt of two elephants fighting,” he added.