The zone of Academic Staff Union of Universities in Port Harcourt, has threatened to down tools at the universities, if the issues of unpaid salaries are not addressed urgently.
The information was about the strike was made known on Friday during a news conference tagged, ‘Shortfall and drawback of university staff salaries’, at the NDU Faculty of Law Campus in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital.
The Zonal Coordinator, ASUU, Prof. Beke Sese, said the various congresses within the zone had reviewed the situations and concluded that the situation was unsustainable, particularly against the backdrop of current economic hardship in Nigeria.
Sese said it was the height of irresponsibility and wickedness to withhold university staff salaries while establishing new universities at the same time.
Though Sese did not specifically indicate when the contemplated strike would commence, he nevertheless said their patience had been stretched to the limit.
He said, ”Our members are being compelled by the actions and inactions of government to contemplate the hard decision of withdrawing our services.
”We call on the students, parents, the media and well-meaning Nigerians to intervene and request the federal as well as state governments to live up to their responsibilities in the universities to avoid the imminent and avoidable closure of our campuses.”
The zonal chairman noted that last year, the Federal Government and some state governments implemented an implicit policy of starvation in the universities by either paying fractional salaries or outright non-payment of salaries.
He said academics had become the major recipients of ”this inhuman and abhorrent policy of starvation”.
He pointed out that at the NDU, lecturers were not paid salaries for a cumulative period of six months last year.
He wondered how the government expected lecturers to cope with caring for their families, paying their children’s school fees and meeting other commitments with such imposed deficit in their income.
He said, ”That academic activities still go on at NDU in the face of this extreme deprivation, is indeed, an exemplary demonstration of patriotism, patience and unbridled commitment to service by members. But the elasticity definitely has a limit and should not be stretched any further.
”In both RSUST and IAUE, the government of the state has withheld union check-offs, which by interpretation is tantamount to paying fractional salaries.
”In the case of Uniport, fractional salaries were paid throughout last year and when there was hope of the refund of the withheld portion of salaries, the government resumed its policy of paying part salaries.
”The administration of the school claimed that there was a shortfall in allocation to the institution between July 2016 and December 2016, but the shortfall was part of the staff emolument all through the year (2016).”
In his brief remarks, Chairman, NDU ASUU, Dr Stanley Ogoun, said since the suspension of their strike last year, the union had never decided on going on strike, noting that the union had been having continuous dialogue and interaction with the Bayelsa State Government.
He, however, said that if at the end of the day, all their negotiations with the government failed, the branch might be compelled to sit back at home.
”But let me correct an impression: there are sister unions within the university system. Often times, when other unions are on strike, but because ASUU appears to be more popular among them, it is assumed ASUU is on strike. As we speak, other unions in NDU are on strike, not ASUU.”
( Punch Nigeria )