The Congress of University Academics (CONUA) has decided to sue the Federal Government over the withheld salaries of its members alongside those of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
A source within the Ministry of Labour had disclosed that the federal government has commenced plans to pay the CONUA their withheld salaries and rectify the half salaries paid to all lecturers under the newly registered union.
The academic union expressed dissatisfaction with the Federal Government, especially the Ministry of Labour and Employment headed by Dr Chris Ngige, over the withheld salaries “even when the government knew that the union did not call for strike action and its members were not involved in the strike action that lasted for eight months and which shut down the university system nationwide.”
In a statement signed by its National President, Secretary and Publicity Secretary, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, Dr Henry Oripeloye and Dr Ernest Nwoke, respectively, CONUA criticised the government for merging its members with those of ASUU who went on strike for eight months (February to October).
“CONUA formally made its non-involvement in the strike known to the Federal Government in a letter addressed to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, in April 2022.
“In the letter, we made it clear that because CONUA constituted a separate and independent union in the university system, our members did not call for any strike.
"This was followed by a Press Conference in Abuja on August 19, 2022, at which it was categorically stated that CONUA was not part of any ongoing strike and that the “No Work No Pay” principle ought not to apply to members of the union.
“CONUA’s expectation is that, due to the express and categorical declaration, the government would seamlessly release our members’ outstanding salaries when it resumed the payment of salaries to all university staff in October 2022.
"But to our dismay, CONUA members were also paid pro-rata salaries in complete disregard to the fact that we were indeed shut out of duties by the strike.
The union noted that following the pro-rata payment alongside ASUU " we wrote to the Accountant-General of the FederatÄ±on and the Ministry of Labour and Employment reminding them that it was an error to lump our members with those that declared and embarked on strike action.
"It was yet another shock for the outstanding backlog of salaries not to have been paid to our members along with the November 2022 salary.
According to CONUA, the withheld salaries by the government contradicts Section 43 (1b) of the Trade Disputes Act CAP. T8, which reads “where any employer locks out his workers, the workers shall be entitled to wages and any other applicable remunerations for the period of the lock-out and the period of the lock-out shall not prejudicially affect any rights of the workers being rights dependent on the continuity of the period of employment.”
“This provision is consistent with global best practices,” it added.
“From the foregoing and as a law-abiding union that pledged to do things differently, we have resolved to seek legal redress of the illegal withholding of our legitimate salaries by taking the matter to court in consonance with the rights enshrined in our laws,” the union said.
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