Due to the lingering university lecturers’ strike, culminating in academic exercise being put in abeyance for months, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has announced a nationwide protest to demand the federal government to do the needful and get students back to school.
NLC in a circular its President Ayuba Wabba and General Secretary Emmanuel Ugboaja signed, said the protest is aimed at pressurising the Federal Government to conclude negotiations with the unions and ensure the resumption of academic activities in public varsities.
The circular reads: “In line with the decision of the National Executive Council meeting of the NLC held on 30th of June 2022, we have scheduled the national days of protest to get our children back to school and support our unions in Nigerians public universities fighting for quality education.
“You are requested to immediately convene the meetings of your SAC (state administrative council) to disseminate this information and to fully mobilise workers in the states for this very important protest for good governance.”
It faulted the Federal Government for rejecting the draft report of the Nimi-Briggs Committee, saying: “The NLC is concerned about reports widely disseminated by the media both online and traditional positing that the Federal Government may have rejected its own Nimi-Briggs Committee on the premise of alleged disparity between the pay rise allocated to university teaching staff and the non-teaching staff.
“First, we wish to posit that the purpose of setting up the Nimi Briggs Committee was to conform with the fundamental principles of the rights of trade unions to collective bargaining as guaranteed by ILO Convention Number 98 which Nigeria has ratified.
“Second, we wish to point out that one of the cardinal principles of collective bargaining is the principle of negotiation in good faith.
“Elements of this principle include conducting genuine and constructive negotiations, making every effort to reach an agreement, avoiding unjustified delays and complying with the agreements when they are signed by the negotiating parties.
“Since the Federal Government decided to set up the Nimi-briggs Committee to make recommendations on the review of the salaries of workers in Nigeria’s university, the negotiating unions and the NLC have been kept in the dark on the report of the committee.
“It is, therefore, a shocker for us to read from the media snippets of a report of what is strictly the product of a negotiation between the Federal Government committee and the concerned trade unions.
“Our first response is to aver that this development gravely betrays and undermines the principle of negotiation in good faith as it manifests crass disrespect by government for trade unions in Nigeria’s universities.
“Second, the circumstances surrounding the work of the Nimi-Briggs Committee also portrays the disposition of government as mortally unserious unfortunately in such a grievous matter as the locking up of public universities for nearly five months.”
Labour recalled that the 2009 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Federal Government and the university union had long expired.
It added: “Given the free-fall of the naira and its continuous devaluation, the need for the review of the 2009 Collective Bargaining Agreement is public knowledge.
“As it stands today, the highest earning university professor and staff earns less than $800 as take-home pay.
“This is indeed very ridiculous and is a major factor in the high rate of brain drain in our system making us unable to retain our best brains.”