The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, Sunday asked the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to return to the negotiating table with the Federal Government.
Ngige, who disclosed this in a statement signed by his media aide, Emmanuel Nzomiwu, warned that there would be consequences if the union rejected the federal government’s overtures to return to the negotiation table.
ASUU embarked on an indefinite strike in February over the federal government’s insistence on the varsity teachers’ enrollment into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and other issues relating to the management of the nation’s universities.
According to the statement, the minister made the call in his hometown in Alor, Anambra, where he donated palliatives worth N15 million to vulnerable households to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
He said that the federal government could activate relevant labour laws to deal with the situation.
According to Ngige, the law permits the federal government to approach the National Arbitration Panel (NAP) and even the National Industrial Court (NIC) for redress on the matter.
He said the ASUU strike was all about the disagreement over IPPIS.
The minister said: “Any other reason given by ASUU is an alibi. I invited ASUU for a zoom meeting in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines, but they insisted on meeting me face to face.
“We have labour laws and hierarchy of arbitration. There is the NAP and NIC. If I am tired, I can refer it there.
“So the better thing is for them to come and negotiate on firsthand basis where we are not bringing an external arbitrator.”
According to him, ASUU members as employees lacked the right to dictate to the federal government on how to receive wages.
“The important thing is for your salaries and wages to come to you. As a workman, you receive your payment as compensation for services rendered. So, that is on the statute everywhere,” he added.