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The federal government has again expressed concerns over the eight-week rollover of strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), saying a gunpoint agreement might be reached again.
The staff Union commenced the ongoing strike on 14th of February and referred to as a one-month warning strike, while await the federal government’s decision to implement the 2009 agreement it entered with the union.
To the chagrin of many, the strike, which was expected to have been called off on 14 March, was extended by two months, six days after the federal government inaugurated a seven-member committee to look into the agreement and renegotiate.
Speaking with THISDAY yesterday, the Ministry of Education, through its Director of Media, Information and Public Relations, Mr. Ben Bem Goong, said the union already had a mindset even before the commencement of the strike.
The striking lecturers, whom he said did not follow due process before announcing their decision, are expected to form their committee, which will have talks with the federal government committee.
On the allegations of a nonchalant attitude from the government by the union, Goong debunked the claims, insinuating that the union by its action is arm-twisting the government, and that the strike in the process of negotiation would have little positivity.
According to him, “ASUUs extension of their strike by eight weeks is most unfortunate. First, that strike did not follow due process.
“Secondly, the government still went ahead to take a step towards resolving the strike. If you call it a warning strike, it means that there are certain things you want. My understanding of the word ‘warning’ is that you are given a notice after which you pause to see how the other party will behave.
“ASUU declared a strike and government took a step to reconstituting the re-negotiation committee. ASUU should have paused. That’s the meaning of a warning strike. But to roll over even in the face of government taking a positive stand towards resolving the issue involved, means that ASUU had a mindset that whatever the government does, they will roll over the strike. So that strike was not a warning strike. I am accusing ASUU directly. The strike had a mindset.
“Also, we have a situation whereby the 2009 agreement was negotiated out of duress. My former permanent secretary will call it a gunpoint agreement. Students were on strike and the government just had to do anything that will take them back to the classes. So when you go on a warning strike, you pause for the government to take a decision in a free and fair atmosphere and not where anyone is held at gunpoint. But to roll over the strike in spite of the positive action the government has taken means there was a mindset.
“When I say come let’s talk, does that signify non-challance? If they continue the strike into the negotiation, it means that we will be negotiating under duress.
“Even in war situations, you must sit on a round table to talk. What is arm twisting in sitting down to talk? There is a peace process that has been set in motion. What I expect from ASUU is for them to make up their committee so that the two teams can begin to talk. What I expect from ASUU is to fast track the process already been put in place based on the facts on ground, and concludes it even within a month.
“In my opinion, we will likely end up with another gunpoint agreement that will not be implementable like the way all stakeholders have agreed. ASUU should call of the strike and let’s negotiate in peace time so that we can come up with an agreement that is acceptable to all parties. They are the ones arm-twisting government and not the other way round. Negotiating while on strike is not a good approach.”