Salary Shortfall: ASUU Refused To Be Included In IPPIS – Ngige
In this exclusive interview with Channels Television, the Minister of Labour and Emplyment, Dr Chris Ngige, speaks on how the Federal Government is addressing the issue of salary shortfall, especially as it relates to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) among several other issues in the Ministry.
Let us begin with the rationale behind the ‘No Work, No Pay’ which is really coming behind the string of the industrial action.
The No work, No pay phenomenon entered the National Law in 2004, Law of the Federation and the Trade Dispute Act. It makes provision in Section 43 and goes to say, “That where negotiations are broken down between an employer or an employee, or where there was no discussion at all, and the worker feels that he should go on strike because there is no slave labour, you can withdraw your services”. You go on strike but for as long as you are out, the employer reserves the right and is no longer compelled by the law of the Employee/Employer Relationship, to pay you any emolument – no salary, no allowances for the period in question and it goes further to say that that period should not count as part of the pensionable periods for the worker.
When did you begin implementation?
Employers have been observing it. The only thing is that we are re-amplifying it. We are re-announcing, we are saying this law exists. Why? Because we have to give the law a human face this time around. When ASUU went, they didn’t confront any of the trade union regulations, there was no notice.
Now, the Federal Government plans to review the constitution so to speak, of labour unions with a view to looking at the leadership tenure and review yet. How far have you gone with this?
We have a committee in sitting and the committee is already working to make sure that most of the constitution have tenure. It cannot be open-ended.
What are you looking at? What sort of time limit?
We don’t have a time limit but there must be a time limit in there. Some people say you do three terms, we are not bothered provided all the members of the association agree to that.
So there is no draft yet for that?
No, we are not imposing anything. We are only trying to see that the right things are done.
Are you not concerned that this will put you on a collision course?
No, there will not be collision course at all. In fact, a lot of the unions are happy about that. For some people, because there is no time limit, they keep on presenting themselves. At a point now, there is factionalisation because for some people you must go, you must give way but it is not in your constitution. We are trying to help the unions to be on the right path of democracy.
But by November 1, the deadline for the implementation of the Federal Government-ASUU Agreement would have popped up. Give me some latest on that.
Well, the major scale of agreements reached with ASUU is in the areas of earn allowances firstly. The Federal Government earmarks some money for payments in September and October and I think that is being addressed. The AIE was released even while we were discussing for the first tranche of (I think) N23bn and by October, another tranche. It is for the earning allowances paid.
Not only by October, it is a backlog from 2013. And there is also the fund for the revitalisation of the university system. We offer some of them something. We do not have money, it was agreed and the government will see to that. We have made provisions for the payment as the necessary approvals have been given to the Minister of Finance. And between the Minister of Finance, the Accountant-General’s office, and the Budget and Planning, they will take care of it. There was also the issue of shortfall in salaries, it did not only affect themselves, it affected the people in the Civil Service and the other public corporations and agencies. The shortfalls arose because they are not on what we call IPPIS – the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), so they are not there and once you are not there and not captured into the database of IPPIS, anything can happen because they are what we call “irregular allowances.” That is where they are paid from, irregular salaries and allowances. So it is like a manual thing actually.
So this is being addressed holistically as we speak?
Oh yeah. By now, the teaching hospitals will start being on IPPIS and when they just get on IPPIS, that will be a thing of the past. We are trying to convince ASUU to go into IPPIS, they are refusing. It is good I mention it. They are refusing and the reason they are giving for refusing is that the IPPIS software will not pay you two times, Yes!
What are you suggesting?
Because some lecturers work here, in one university A and work in another university B, and sometimes in university C.
Is that owing to the debt of lecturers?
Oh yeah, the National Universities Commission approved that for them. It is not an illegal thing. So that is why they are resisting.
And why are you insisting?
We are insisting because that is the only way you can receive your salaries regularly for now. It is better you get one salary fully and then make a special case for the second place you are teaching or third place you are teaching. That is my take on it. We discussed freely and that is the situation.
Let us talk about labour unions renewing their call for the review of the national minimum wage. What exactly is happening in this regard?
What exactly is happening is that our own last minimum wage law accented to by (former) President (Goodluck) Jonathan expired last year. Government agreed to do some cushioning effect and put up a technical committee. So we have done a framework for a 30-man committee and that has been passed by the Federal Executive Council. The committee is a broad-based committee. The committee now, we have gotten a nomination – the final of the nominations. We are waiting for the appointment of the chairman and the inauguration of the committee. If I ask you, you will say that the minimum wage N18,500, why can’t they pay N18,500?
The minimum wage of N18,500 means that this is the minimum wage any employer can be or should pay by law. Even you, employing a house help, your house help should not earn anything less than N18,500; that is the implication. Even people who take apprentices, N18,500 is the minimum thing. So you can see that it is not only for government. Besides, that N18,500 is a benchmark. You have to then move up on all the other salary grade levels on a sliding scale.
So that is something you think the Federal Government cannot keep up with?
Not Federal Government, because Federal Government is not the only person employing. That is why we are doing social dialoguing, that is why we are meeting in a minimum wage committee and everybody will put the cards on the table.
Is that happening this year?
It is happening this year.