Resist government’s effort to create resentment, ERC tells ASUU, SSANU
National Coordinator of Education Rights Campaign (ERC), a non-governmental organisation, Hassan Taiwo Soweto, has advised the teaching and non-teaching staff of federal universities to unite and resist government’s attempt to split them through the N23b earned academic allowance.
The teaching and non-teaching staff under the umbrella body of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), have been at loggerheads over the sharing formula of the allowance as released by the Federal Government.
Soweto in a chat with The Guardian, accused the FG of releasing an amount that is grossly inadequate to cater to the needs of the unions with the intent to cause disunity among the groups.
He therefore advised the unions to rather than publicly attack one another; they should instead direct their grouses on the government by demanding the payment of the full entitlement of earned allowance for all categories of staff.
He said, “If the full amount for all categories of workers being owed are paid, it would be difficult for anyone to complain of unfair sharing formula, as nobody fights over what is adequate. I must appeal to the leadership of the affecteed uions to be careful not to allow government to create enmity among them because the agenda of the government is to create antagonism so that the unions would be busy fighting themselves instead of mobilising to fight the government over issues of education funding, implementation of collective agreements, workers welfare and wages.
“Using the method of divide and rule, the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government threw at the unions N23 billion which is grossly inadequate to meet the demands of the four unions for earned allowance of their members. The agenda was to make this cause a stampede for the limited funds and this is what is happening now. Solidarity is an important component of labour and workers struggle. With solidarity, it should have been possible for the unions to have found a means to agree to a fair sharing formula such that the agenda of the government to divide them would not come to pass. Unfortunately this was not done and that is why we have this crisis.
He continued, “Workers deserve their wages. These allowances are not free gifts, but a product of the work done by these workers. They are allowances, which successive government had owned all categories of staff in the universities since 2009 and it took several strikes and protests for the Buhari government to release this inadequate amount. We think the way forward is for the unions to find a way to harmonize and demand for the full entitlement of owed earned allowance to be paid to all categories of workers in the public universities. The government has enough money to pay but they will not unless they are confronted with a relentless struggle.”
Soweto therefore charged the unions to harmonise their differences and end the antagonism, cautioning that government stands to benefit from the on-going division among the unions if it persists.
He called for joint congresses of all of the education workers at local levels and joint leadership meetings at national levels to begin to harmonise these issues and arrive at a united approach that would lead to the unions once again marching together to compel government to fund public education adequately.
“The ERC demands that the Federal Government should pay all of the earned allowance owed to both academic and non-academic staff. This government should cover its face in shame for not being able to pay the meager allowances of workers, yet can afford to pay the own jumbo allowances of politicians and even approve more benefits for themselves. Few days ago, N280 million was approved for former heads of states for vehicles and other things. This shows the Buhari government is a pro-rich government that does not have the interest of workers at heart. Workers and the downtrodden must fight to send this government packing and replace it with a workers and poor people’s government armed with socialist policies.
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