Non-teaching workers in public universities may be heading towards another showdown with the Federal Government over plans by the latter to remove staff school workers from the 2022 budget.
The workers, under the umbrella of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), threatened to ground public universities if the controversial circular directing that workers of the staff schools should not be captured in the 2022 budget is not withdrawn.
SSANU also warned that reopening a matter that had been decided by the National Industrial Court would affect the industrial harmony being enjoyed in the universities.
The union alleged that should the government implement the directive, over 3,000 of its members would be affected.
But Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige has assured the workers that the government would address the issue to avert another crisis in the universities.
Addressing reporters in Abuja at the weekend on the looming crisis in the universities, SSANU President Mohammed Ibrahim accused the government of violating the agreement with the union, even when the court had given a judgment on the matter.
Ibrahim, who was reacting to the alleged circular from the Budget Office directing that teachers in staff schools should be removed from the Consolidated Salary Scale (CONTISS) in the 2022 budget, even when there is a subsisting court judgment in favour of the union, said SSANU would “fight” the development to the finish.
He said: “Well, the issue is that we are also taken aback by the recent negative development that we just saw last week that the Federal Government, through the Budget Office, directed that universities should expunge or remove the list of our members who teach in the university demonstration schools. This means they shouldn’t be captured in the CONTISS salary table.
“But the government is planning to put them in a different salary table called CONPISS, the consolidated public service salary scale.
“Now, this is a negation of our agreement with the government because those members of ours who are in the university demonstration schools are bona fide members of university staff. They have their employment letters signed by the registrars of various universities.
He added: “So, our attention was drawn to it that government had made a move and directed that budgets of 2022 should not include teachers of the university staff schools and that they should be treated with a different salary scale.
“We have met and resolved that we will not agree and that we will fight it with all the legal means and instruments available to us…”
Responding, Ngige said: “Well, I have not got a report from SSANU on that particular issue. But if I remember correctly, it is one of the issues that I have conciliated upon, following the National Industrial Court’s judgment few years ago. So, I will be surprised if that matter rears its head again.
“The issue is very clear. If the universities employ people in their primary schools, then those people are not university workers. If they employ people in secondary schools, for those who have secondary schools, again the courts have demarcated what should be done, particularly in terms of the capital component of those schools and the recurrent component of those schools.
“So, when we get their letter, we will address it. I don’t think it will result in any crisis or industrial action again because it is not a new matter.” (TheNation)