The Congress of University Academics (CONUA) has come out to threaten legal action against the Federal Government over its withheld salaries for the period of eight months.
Naija News gathered that the new academic association has said it is rather disappointed in the federal government and especially the Ministry of Labour and Employment, over the non-payment of its members’ withheld salaries even when they know they didn’t partake in the strike.
The union in a statement on Tuesday, signed by its National President, Secretary and Publicity Secretary, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, Dr Henry Oripeloye and Dr Ernest Nwoke respectively, noted that “even when the government knew that the union did not call for strike action and its members were not involved in the strike action that lasted for eight months and which shut down the university system nationwide.”
According to the group, it is very wrong and unfair for the federal government to lump CONUA with members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) who went on eight months of strike between February and October 2022.
CONUA, on this premise, has threatened to drag the federal government to court for withholding its members’ salaries.
The statement also maintained that “CONUA formally made its non-involvement in the strike known to the Federal Government in a letter addressed to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, in April 2022.
“In the letter, we made it clear that because CONUA constituted a separate and independent union in the university system, our members did not call for any strike.
“This was followed by a Press Conference in Abuja on August 19, 2022, at which 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.
“CONUA’s expectation is that, due to the express and categorical declaration, the government would seamlessly release our members’ outstanding salaries when it resumed the payment of salaries to all university staff in October 2022. But to our dismay, CONUA members were also paid pro-rata salaries in complete disregard to the fact that we were indeed shut out of duties by the strike.
“Subsequently, we wrote to the Accountant-General of the Federatıon and the Ministry of Labour and Employment reminding them that it was an error to lump our 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.
“Our withheld salaries” contravenes Section 43 (1b) of the Trade Disputes Act CAP. T8, which stated 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 the 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.”