THE Nigerian government on Tuesday, January 17, issued certificates of recognition to two breakaway unions of Nigerian university lecturers and medical doctors – the Congress of University Academics (CONUA) and the National Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA).
CONUA emerged from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) while NAMDA is a breakaway group from the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).
ASUU and NARD had embarked on series of strikes in recent years over disputes with the government, a development which is believed to have prompted the Federal Government to register the two breakaway unions.
At the certificate issuance ceremony in Abuja on Tuesday, Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige warned members of CONUA and NAMDA against going on strike, noting that they would not be paid salaries if they embark on industrial action.
Ngige further stressed that the registration of the two unions followed due process as the Ministry received no letter from any existing union rejecting the registration of CONUA and NAMDA.
Presenting the unions with copies of their certificates of registration, he also enjoined them to fully operate as trade unions in the education sector.
The minister warned CONUA and NAMDA not to shut down Nigeria’s tertiary education like ASUU did by embarking on an indefinite strike.
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“Don’t behave like ASUU. ASUU wanted to close down government business and we said no. There are consequences to strike. If you go on strike, the law is clear: no salary for you.
“If you have issues, negotiate with government, your employer. Be responsible in your demands. Education is essential service, therefore, no one should decide to shut it down for any reason.”
The Minister of Labour added that the government couldn’t sign the agreement contained in ASUU demand as there “was nowhere government will go and bring over a trillion naira to give ASUU.”
According to him, no minister or government official will sign any agreement that will not be possible to implement. He added that what happened in the tertiary education sector in 2022 will never happen in Nigeria again.
“With what we have done, no minister or government official will sign any agreement that will not be possible to implement. Unless the labour ministers after me choose to do contrary to the principles of free bargaining.”
Ngige also advised CONUA and NAMDA not to fight with other related unions.
Speaking on the development, CONUA National President Dr Niyi Sunmonu appealed to the Federal Government to pay the eight months withheld salary of the union members.
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“Our concern is on the further withholding of CONUA members’ eight months’ salary. We did not call for strike neither did we go on strike. We call for an end to the withholding of salaries of our members.”
Sunmonu further explained that members of the union were unable to perform their duties due to the lock out arising from the shutdown of the universities by the school authorities.
He said: “Section 43(1b) of the Trade Disputes Act says “where any employer locks out his workers, the workers shall be entitled to wages and any other applicable remuneration for the period of the lock-out and the period of the lock-out shall not prejudicialy affect any rights of the workers being rights dependent on the continuity of period of employment”.
“In other words, there is no moral nor legal basis for the “No Work, No Pay policy to be applied to CONUA members, because we were only unable to perform our full duties due to the lock-out arising from the shutdown of the universities by university authorities who directed students to vacate the campuses.
“In this regard, even though we earlier put on notice that we shall go to any mile to seek legal redress on the payment of the withheld salaries, however, we note the salutary steps being taken recently by the Federal Government to ensure justice for CONUA members with respect to the withheld salaries.”