By Umar Audu
The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment has clarified that it did not invite the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, for a meeting last Thursday.
Last week, the media was awash with reports quoting the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, as saying that relevant agencies would hold a meeting pertaining to the ongoing university strike the next day.
But the ASUU President, Emmanuel Osodeke, during an interview with Channels TV, said his union did not receive any invitation.
Issuing a statement on Monday, the labour ministry explained that the meeting the minister was referring to was meant for only inter-ministerial departments, agencies and committees of the Federal Government.
According to the statement signed by the ministry’s spokesperson, Olajide Oshundun, said that none of the university-based unions, including ASUU, was invited.
Mr Oshundun added that the meeting in question was called to assess the progress made so far on addressing the few outstanding demands of the striking university workers, such as the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of their conditions of service.
“These two committees were empanelled by the Honourable Minister and the Chief of Staff to the President at the last tripartite plus meetings of the unions and the government side.
“For the avoidance of doubt, none of the unions was invited to last Thursday’s meeting and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Dr Chris Ngige, while briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting last Wednesday, June 22, 2022, clarified that the meeting would hold the next day (Thursday, June 23,2022), for the government side alone.
“As expected, the meeting held and all the stakeholders reported on the various assignments given to them and accordingly, received further briefing and directives from the President in order to accelerate discussions with ASUU.
“It is hoped that before Wednesday this week, all the various sub-committees will turn in their reports, to enable Mr. President to be briefed fully and for decisions to be taken on the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of the conditions of service, especially the issue of wage increase.
“It is after receiving briefings from the government side that the Ministry of Labour will bring all the stakeholders, including the unions, to a conference table to look at the agreement before signing or endorsement.” the statement partly read.
While emphasizing that the claims are verifiable, Mr Oshundun said the ministry would not allow itself to be bullied by any union into forcing any payment platform on the government.
He further urged the public to disregard insinuations that the ministry of labour does not sympathize with the students, unions and their parents, adding that the minister is also affected by the ongoing strike.