AFTER Polytechnic students have lost an entire academic session, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, as recent developments show that the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP might call off its nine-month- old strike soon.
Speaking to Vanguard Learning, the ASUP Zone D Chairman, Mr. Anderson Ezeibe opined that the intervention of the National Assembly has gone a long way in resolving some of the issues raised by the union. He said in a phone interview: “We are likely to have an emergency National Executive Committee meeting this week. Our dealings with the National Assembly have been fruitful so far. The committee on dichotomy is almost done and we are just waiting for the report. We are also waiting on a technical committee to be set up that will look into the remaining issues when the strike is over. The commencement of this committee will form part of the resolutions for the strike to be called off. We know that some of these issues cannot be resolved in a day, that is why we want this committee set up so that the issues are not swept under the carpet when the strike ends.”
It would be recalled that polytechnic lecturers have not been paid since March when the ‘no-work, no-pay’ policy was set in motion by the Federal Government. Ezeibe said: “Another issue we will consider at the NEC is the Federal Government’s commitment to pay the arrears of withheld salaries as well as the migration of those in the lower cadre to the CONTISS 15 salary scale. We hope to have these conditions in writing with the heads of relevant institutions appending their signatures. If this is done, we will take the conditions to the NEC, and the NEC will decide.”
For the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, COEASU, it seems like there might not be a shifting of grounds until June 24, when the union is set to meet with the National Assembly. The COEASU President, Mr. Emmanuel Nkoro told Vanguard Learning: “We have been called for a meeting with the National Assembly on June 24 to resolve the issues. I am quite optimistic about that meeting. I hope that we will receive an offer that we will be able to take back to pur people. We have spent a long time on this quagmire, and we hope that the issues will be resolved so that the strike can come to an end.”
Why the strikes?
The root cause of the strike is an agreement ASUP had with the Federal Government in 2001, which was reviewed in 2009 with an agreement that it should be re-negotiated after three years.
In December 2012, as a result of government’s failure to address any of the demands, ASUP issued government a 30-day ultimatum which expired on January 31, 2013.
Though ASUP had reasons to embark on strike in view of government’s repeated failure to address its demands, it decided to give government more time to respond; a response that never came. This compelled the union to issue another 21-day ultimatum on March 25, 2013 which expired on April 22, 2013 and was followed by the declaration of a one-week warning strike which dovetailed into an indefinite strike beginning Monday, April, 29, 2013.
ASUP suspended the strike in July 2013 as a result of Government’s promise to fulfill four of the 13 issues in the contentious 2009 agreement between both parties.
These four issues include release of the White paper on Visitation to Federal Polytechnics, the completion of the constitution of the governing councils for federal polytechnics, the migration of the lower cadre to CONTISS 15 salary scale, and the commencement of the Needs Assessment of Nigerian Polytechnics.
The union suspended the strike,and gave Government a one month time frame to resolve the issues. But it was not until ASUP resumed its strike in January that the Federal Government commenced Needs Assessment and completed the constitution of the governing councils for federal polytechnics.
COEASU on the other hand, is fighting for the first issue which is the non-implementation of Peculiar Academic Allowance to the tune of N5.6bn, imposition of integrated IPPIS, inadequate funding of the teaching practice, non- accreditation of NCE programmes, non-release of Whitepaper on Visitation Panel Reports 2011, non-implementation of CONPCASS in some states, non-institution of dual mode which allows colleges of education the autonomy to award degrees in core education courses to run concurrently with the NCE programmes among others.” (Vanguard)