- Calls On President Tinubu To Urgently Constitute New Minimum Wage Negotiating C’ttee
THE NATIONAL President of the Non-Academic Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), Comrade (Dr) Makolo Hassan, on Tuesday assured that the leadership of NASU will continue to uphold the principles of internal democracy and constitutionalism in the administration of the union despite mounting economic difficulties.
The NASU President also called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to urgently constitute a National Minimum Wage Negotiating Committee to review the current national minimum wage in the context of deepening hardship occasioned by the removal of subsidy on petrol and the unfavourable monetary policies of both the current and immediate past governments.
Comrade Makolo stated these, among many other interventions, on Tuesday in his welcome address at the opening session of NASU’s 8th Quadrennial Delegates Conference held at the NAF Conference Centre and Suites, Abuja, Nigeria.
The three-day conference convened under the theme: “Trade Unionism In The Era Of Economic Crisis: Addressing The Increasing Poverty Level Of Nigerian Workers”, will end today, Thursday, December 7, 2023, with the election of new national leaders.
The opening session of the conference, chaired by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who delivered the keynote address on theme and declared the conference open, featured a public lecture also on the theme, presented by veteran public intellectual and socialist activist, Emeritus Prof Omotayo Olorode, while the union honoured key personalities with awards, among which are the Minister of Labour and Employment, Solomon Bako Lalong, the Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria, Abuja, Prof Garba Sharubutu, and immediate past president of NASU, Comrade Chris Ani, amongst others.
According to Comrade Makolo, convening a conference with over 900 delegates as NASU’s ‘requires enormous resources’ against the backdrop of the fact that the union solely finances all its conference activities ‘without any external sponsorship.’
“In the face of the current economic crisis confronting the nation, holding a conference of this magnitude requires enormous resources, especially taking into consideration the fact that NASU’s conferences are solely financed by the Union without any external sponsorship.
“We were all living witnesses when some Unions under flimsy and untenable excuses, postponed their conferences, some for upward of two years. The conferences of some union that held theirs did not last more than one day with a greater part of the conference activities being spent on receiving fraternal messages.
“NASU as a union that holds dear, the principles of internal democracy in union administration, cannot afford that luxury. Meetings of organs of the union have been held in line with the provisions of our constitution; therefore, it is unthinkable that our conference will be postponed even for a week,” Makolo said.
He explained that the ongoing conference would have commenced on 3rd December if that date had not fallen on a Sunday, since the 7th quadrennial delegates conference of NASU had taken place from 3rd to 5th December 2019.
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He said: “The 7th Quadrennial Delegates Conference was held from Tuesday 3rd – Thursday 5th December 2019. This 8th Quadrennial Delegates Conference is holding exactly four years after in line with the provision of our Constitution. The conference would have commenced on 3rd December but for the fact that the day was a Sunday, Tuesday, 5th December became inevitable.”
Makolo used his welcome speech to interrogate a number of trade union issues and struggles in the education sector ranging from funding of tertiary institutions, inconclusive renegotiations of FGN/NASU agreements in tertiary institutions, No Work, No Pay order, new national minimum wage, wage awards, teaching/specialist hospitals, research and allied institutions, primary and secondary schools, examination bodies and libraries, the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), registration of a parallel Non-Teaching Staff Union of Polytechnics (NOTSUP), crude oil theft, youth unemployment and underemployment, as well as the state of the nation’s economy generally, amongst other topical issues.
Funding of Tertiary Education
According to Makolo, the crisis of underfunding of tertiary education by both the federal and state governments has reached an alarming level, occasioning broad negative ramifications, including infrastructural decay, poor service delivery, and low staff morale in addition to poor manpower and general underdevelopment of the country.
“This is evident in the quality of products from these institutions. A country faced with this situation cannot be talking of quality manpower and development. This is at the heart of the reoccurring disputes between the federal government and unions in the education sector,” Makolo said, adding that this is despite the critical interventions of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and other interventions that came through Needs Assessment.
While noting that “funding of education falls short of the UNESCO’s recommendation of 26% allocation to the education sector in national budgets,” he said it is heartwarming hearing from government officials that “the current administration will strive towards meeting UNESCO’s recommended benchmark for funding of education.”
Pointing out that the challenge of funding is further compounded by the indiscriminate establishment of tertiary institutions by federal and state governments, Makolo called on governments to halt this practice and fund existing ones.
While appreciating the 25% salary awards to all federal tertiary institutions by President Tinubu in the wake of negative impact of the withdrawal of subsidy on petrol, Makolo called for the reconstitution of government team to conclude the renegotiation of the inconclusive FGN/NASU agreements in universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in order to guarantee peace and stability in tertiary institutions.
“One of the contentious issues during the renegotiations was the financial components of the negotiations, which all Government Teams of the three Renegotiation Committees said will be left until the tail end of the negotiations.
“It is therefore with mix feelings that the union welcomed the 25% salary award to all workers in federal tertiary institutions. In industrial relations practice, when collective bargaining is ongoing, there is no place for awards, as awards cannot replace Collective Agreements. Collective bargaining brings about a fair and just wage, that is based on Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA), which is done to counteract the affect of rising prices in the economy called inflation,” Makolo stated.
No Work, No Pay
Speaking on the partial waiver granted by President Tinubu on ‘no work, no pay’ order which was activated by the Buhari administration, the NASU President called on the current government to “go the full stretch by directing the payment to our members in the Universities and Inter-University Centres all their withheld salaries and the removal of the conditionality attached to the waiver.
According to him, while NASU looks forward to having a cordial working relationship with the Tinubu administration, however, “the waiver and the conditions attached to it cannot guarantee industrial peace in the sector as the issues that foisted the strike on the unions in the university subsector remain unresolved.”
National Minimum Wage
Noting that the monetary policies of both the immediate past and current governments, which gave rise to double-digit inflation at 27.33%, exchange rate at N1,100 to a dollar and price of petrol at all time high of N640 per litre as at November 16, 2023, Makolo said have made “a mockery of the current national minimum wage” and therefore made compelling the need for a new wage regime.
He said: “The call for the review of the National Minimum Wage has become urgent in view of the information given by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its Report for October 2023, which stated that the major contributors to the increase in inflation were food and non-alcoholic beverages, housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuel, clothing and footwear, transport, furnishings, household equipment, and maintenance. The continued rise in inflation was attributed to removal of petrol subsidy, and devaluation of the official exchange rate.
“I therefore call on the President to, as a matter of urgency, constitute a National Minimum Wage Negotiating Committee to review the current National Minimum Wage Act.”
Comrade Makolo among other things called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) look at legitimate concerns made by political parties, local and international election monitors and observers and address them in future elections just as he also called for further legislation on the electoral laws.
“Also, those that require the amendment of the electoral law should be addressed through electoral reforms.
“We join our voice to others to demand that the electoral law should be amended to ensure that litigations on any election are concluded before the swearing in of any person,” he said.