CONUA demands payment for withheld salaries, remuneration

The Congress of University Academics has requested that the Federal Government immediately begin payment of members’ withheld three-and-a-half-month salary, as well as member remunerations, which the union claims have remained static despite increasing inflation.

In a press statement issued on Thursday, CONUA President ‘Niyi Sunmonu, while appreciating the government for paying four months’ salaries out of the seven and a half months during which the Academic Staff Union of Universities was on strike, urged the government to pay the remaining outstanding salaries, clarifying that the union did not participate in the strike action.

The statement partly read “The Union wishes to convey its appreciation to the Federal Government for effecting the payment of four months out of the seven and a half withheld salaries of academics in federal universities as a result of strike action embarked upon by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

“Our union, CONUA, has consistently maintained that it never declared and was not part of any strike action. What the government had done was to lump together those who embarked on strike with those who did not!

“This will give the impression that the Federal Government does not appreciate other measures other than strike to pursue the demands of academics! This is against the judgment delivered on 25th July 2023 at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), which affirmed CONUA as an independent Union.”

It added that since CONUA neither called for nor joined any strike, withholding the three-and-a-half months’ salaries of members of the union contravenes 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 the period of employment.”

CONUA further asked that the process of paying these outstanding months be kick-started immediately to ensure lasting peace in our ivory towers.

Sunmonu also demanded the payment of remunerations for academics, noting a directive by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission on September 14, 2023, stating the payment of 35 per cent and 23.5 per cent salary increments for staff of tertiary institutions.

“Of special interest in this regard is the remuneration of academics that has remained virtually stagnant since 2009 despite a steady rise in inflation. In addition, the implementation of 35 per cent and 23.5 per cent salary increments for staff of tertiary institutions through a memo from the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) dated 14th September 2023 and to be effective from January 2023. CONUA finds it appalling that one year after the directive; it has not been implemented even in the face of the excruciating suffering of Nigerian academics brought about by inflation.

“CONUA, therefore, calls for the implementation of this directive and also demands for the constitution of a negotiation committee, without further delay, that will include all academic unions in the university and other stakeholders to negotiate the upward review of emoluments of academics in Nigerian Universities while taking into account the current realities created especially by the fuel subsidy removal,” he added.

CONUA also called on President Bola Tinubu, to “correct the error of dissolution of the Governing Councils of Federal Universities without reference to the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act 2003,” in line with the commitment of his administration to enthrone university autonomy.

“It is our belief that the action of correcting the errors will negate the unintended impression that the government is unappreciative of the invaluable services of the distinguished Nigerians some of whom were literally begged to put their wealth of experience at the service of the Nation’s educational system”, the statement read.