Striking university unions, including the Academic Staff Union of Universities and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, have lamented the effect of the no-work-no-pay policy invoked by the Federal Government, saying it was meant to weaken their resolve.
The National President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke; and SSANU’s National Vice-President, Dr Abdussobur Salaam, spoke in separate interviews with The PUNCH.
Osodeke told the Newspaper that the last time he received his salary was in February, adding that the government’s strategy of withholding their salaries is meant to weaken their resolve over the union’s demands.
He however said members of the union would remain steadfast even if they will have to do menial jobs or embark on farming to get money.
He added that three weeks after they had the last meeting with the renegotiation committee, nothing had been heard from the government.
He said, “We have not heard anything from the government. This is the third week after the meeting with the renegotiation committee headed by Prof. Briggs. We will keep waiting until they respond.
“Ngige believes that our members will become hungry and beg them, but we will not beg them. We are ready to wait for a year, two years, till they respond.
“If it means doing taxi work, selling groundnut, doing farming to feed, we will engage in those ventures but he should be rest assured that his strategy of withholding our salaries will not work.”
Salaam corroborated Osodeke’s position, saying the government has resolved to use coercive means through salary stoppage.
He said, “The government itself has been delaying the process of negotiations. It seems they are comfortable with allowing the strike to linger long because there has been no serious commitment to any issues so far.
“Government must show more commitment towards resolving the issues that led to the strike rather than using coercive means through salary stoppage.”
A Professor of Linguistics, University of Ibadan, Francis Egbokhare, also confirmed that he had been without salary for five months.
He said, “If you don’t pay people who have accumulated much debt, the system will pay, one way or the other.
“Morale is already very low. Complicating it by withholding salaries will be a monumental error. The consequences on the system will reverberate everywhere. A good number of lecturers have left for greener pastures overseas. Many have adapted to alternative income operations.
“If we are not paid, self-help and coping strategies will be mainstreamed and normalised. I think that a simple cost-benefit analysis will reveal the folly in the threat.”
A lawyer, Mr Oluwafemi Olabisi, said it was an unfair labour practice for workers not to be paid their salaries while on strike.
He said, “The only situation where workers are not allowed to earn salaries is when there is no more employer-employee relationship.
“But if workers are down tooling or on strike for a course or an agitation, like what ASUU and other university workers are doing, they cannot be suspended while they are on strike and their salary cannot be stopped.
“If the government has refused to pay, it is illegal, it is not allowed under the Nigerian Labour Law. It is contrary to international best practices.”