(News investigators) The Congress of University Academics (CONUA) has expressed its disappointment with the Federal Government, especially the Ministry of Labour and Employment, over the non-payment of its members’ withheld salaries and threatened to seek legal redress.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, had presented certificates of registration to CONUA and the Nigeria Association of Medical and Dental Lecturers in Academics (NAMDA) at the peak of the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in October, a move believed to be targeted at decimating ASUU’s authorities.
The president of CONUA, Dr. Niyi Sunmonu in a statement issued on Tuesday said even when the government knew its members were not involved in the strike action that lasted for eight months, their salaries were being withheld.
He said the non-payment of their withheld salaries contravened Section 43 (1b) of the Trade Disputes Act CAP. T8, which states that “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 period of employment.”
“This provision is consistent with global best practices. 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,” he said.
According to the statement, CONUA formally made its non-involvement in the strike known to the Federal Government in a letter addressed to Ngige in April 2022, followed by a press conference in Abuja on August 19, 2022 where 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.
According to the statement, the union had written to the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Ministry of Labour and Employment reminding them that it was an error to lump their 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,” he said.