Purported removal of staff school workers in 2022 fuels SSANU strike fears

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Non-teaching staff of public universities may be heading for 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the controversial circular directing that workers of the Staff Schools should not be captured in the 2022 budget is not withdrawn.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, alleging that if the government should go ahead to implement the directive, over 3,000 of its members would be affected.

However, Labour and Employment Minister, Chris Ngige has assured the workers the government will address the issue to avert another industrial action in the universities.

Speaking with reporters in Abuja at the weekend on the looming crisis in the universities, President of SSANU, Comrade Mohammed Ibrahim, accused the government of going contrary to the agreement with the union even when the court had given a judgment on the matter.

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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 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, meaning that 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 government, because those members of ours who are in the university demonstration schools are bonafide members of University staff, and they have their employment letters signed by the registrar’s of various universities, as approved by councils under the terms and conditions for engagement is that they will operate and be paid based on the consolidated salary scale, that is paid to all university staff.

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“Unfortunately, this development shows that government is trying to create another friction between us and them. Because the attempt was made five or six years ago, when government decided to remove them completely from the employment and we went to court, as you’re aware, went to industrial court.

“After a long battle, we got a judgment in our favour. And it was interpreted that members of staff in the universities who teach in the university staff, schools or demonstration schools are bonafide members of staff of universities, as employed by councils, therefore, they should be treated as such, those that were sacked, should be returned, and that their salaries should be restored.

“And that we were happy we celebrated this, government complied to an extent, even though there are still some universities that have returned them, but have refused to pay them backlog of their salaries that they missed.

“So, all of a sudden, this is the recent development like I call it negative development that has erupted and our members cannot sit down and watch or the union cannot sit and watch its members being maltreated.

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“There is a contract agreement with government, these people have been employed. Our expectation is that we should allow that to continue until when they retire. If government is planning to stop funding, personnel costs of teachers in the university demonstration schools, it should be from the new employments they are making, but not the ones that they have already employed and they have signed contract with.

“We will not allow this we will fight again with all the vigour and we will follow all the legal ways of making sure that we defend the interests of our membership, like we did in the first instance.”

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