Post COVID-19 industrial peace not guaranteed in universities ― SSANU
• Threaten strike over IPPIS, Earned Allowances, pension deduction
While hope rises for an end to the prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) has warned that except the Federal Government addresses its own issues, non-teaching staff will also proceed on strike as soon as schools are reopened.
According to National Vice President, SSANU, Mr Alfred Jimoh, the hope of having a peaceful post-COVID-19 industrial atmosphere in universities will only be a mirage except for issues such as unpaid arrears of earned allowances, inadequacies of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), double deduction of pension are addressed.
Addressing journalists at SSANU office in the University of Ibadan, the union described as saddening that the earned allowances of non-teaching staff that arose from the 2009 FG/SSANU agreement was still largely unattended to, despite repeated industrial actions on the issue.
Pointing to various communications with the federal government, SSANU lamented the nonchalant attitude of the government to issues affecting non-teaching staff of Nigerian universities while treating teaching staff as ‘demi-god’.
“It is indeed very saddening that the Earned Allowances of our members which arose from the 2009 FGN/SSANU Agreement are still largely unattended to as government and its agents have often acted in respect of this issue in a way that suggests that for as long as the Earned Allowances of the Teaching staff are paid, even though if that of the Non-Teaching staff are not paid, there would be little or no problem.
“We like to state categorically that this is both erroneous and fallacious. SSANU is seriously mobilizing to engage the government over the unpaid arrears of the Earned Allowances of its members across the country as soon as schools are reopened.
“Unless government attends to all the issues placed before it through our various communications with it; the hope of having peaceful post-COVID industrial atmospheres in our University campuses and Inter-University centres post COVID-19 might as well be a mirage.
“The only thing that will save a strike from being called is if the government addresses the issues that are placed before them. If the government refuses to address those issues, and think that as long as they settle ASUU and ASUU calls off its strike and think the school can reopen, the government will be having it wrong.
“Even if ASUU calls off its strike and the COVID-19 lockdown is relieved, our own union will embark on strike. This is because it does appear that unless unions go on strike, the government will not address their issues.
“So, if that is what the government wants, SSANU and NASU are ready to toe the line government wants to toe before they can address our issues. We will commence our strike if lockdown is over and the government does not address our issues,” Jimoh said.
Speaking further, Jimoh explained that the union’s opposition to IPPIS was because it was a platform that did not accommodate all the peculiarities of the university system and continued to fuel corruption in the system.
The union faulted the IPPIS platform for mutilating salaries through unilateral removal of hitherto enjoyed allowances of our members, increased tax burden, multiple taxation, the introduction of strange deductions and refusal to remit third party deduction of staff to the appropriate quarters.
Just as its academic staff counterpart developed the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as an alternative to IPPIS, Jimoh said SSANU had also developed an alternative platform codenamed University General Purpose Payment Platform (UG3P) which was ready for text run and handing over to the government.
“IPPIS which is a payment platform adopted by the Federal government to pay its staff since 2014, but fully deployed in the university and Inter-University centres effective from February 2020, has turned out to be a huge embarrassment to SSANU.
“Contrary to our expectation and assurances that the platform has been worked upon to accommodate all the peculiarities of the university system and the symphony of a platform to put an end to corruption in the system, all of which government used to hoodwink us into buying into the platform, we have found out albeit saddling that IPPIS has turned out to be a monumental failure and embarrassment to us as it has presented the leadership and followership of SSANU in a very bad light. Government and the managers of IPPIS have failed to walk their talk
“We like to place on record here that the non-remittance of third party deduction has a very serious negative effect on both the union (SSANU) and its members. For instance, it has incapacitated the various staff Cooperatives and starved them of needed fund for loans for members.
“On the part of the union, it has seriously hampered the activities of SSANU, particularly the ability to our branches to mobilize delegates for union functions,” Jimoh said.
Furthermore, SSANU decried illegal deduction of pension, coupled with the government’s failure to promptly make remittal to the National Pension Commission (PenCom).
As a result of the failure of government, the union bemoaned that the Employees Retirement Savings Account (RSA) was not credited as and when due, as statutorily required.
“Furthermore, the treatment being given to Pensioners under the New Pension Scheme is very unpleasant. SSANU calls on government to put the Employee/Employer deduction of Pension on the first charge of the Consolidated Account of the Federation, so as to save Nigerians who have served their country with the better parts of the youthful age from the trauma of epileptic pension payment,” Jimoh added.