By Ayodele Oni
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has given the federal government within seven days to reverse payment of half October salary to members of Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) that resumed from eight months strike recently.
SERAP pointed out that President Muhammadu Buhari should “direct the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, and the acting Accountant General of the Federation, Sylva Okolieaboh to immediately reverse the apparently illegal deductions from the salaries of members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for October 2022.”
‘Mr President should direct Mr Ngige and Mr Okolieaboh to pay ASUU members full salaries for the duration of their strike action.”
The Federal Government recently allegedly paid half-salaries to members of ASUU for the month of October, 2022. Some professors reportedly received salaries ranging from N71,000 to N121,000 for October.
In the open letter dated 5 November, 2022 and signed by SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Paying half salaries to ASUU members solely for exercising their human rights is patently unlawful and incompatible with the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and international standards.”
“The alleged deductions from the salaries of ASUU members also amount to punishing them for exercising their right to strike.
“The deductions are illegal and disproportionate. The deductions may also be construed as a deliberate attempt to take away the right to strike, and to make ASUU a lame duck.
“The right to strike implies the right of workers not to be punished for striking. ASUU members do not therefore forfeit their salaries because they exercise their right to strike.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.
“If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our requests in the public interest.
“Illegal deductions from the salaries of ASUU members may also violate the right to work, and to respect of the dignity inherent in a human being.”
“The deductions are also incompatible with the prohibition of all forms of exploitation and degradation of man particularly cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment.
“The deductions also implicitly violate the right of members of ASUU to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including to the continuous improvement of living conditions.
“Strikes are an essential means available to workers and their organizations to protect their interests.”
“The right to strike is an intrinsic element of the right of association recognized under the Nigerian Constitution, ILO conventions, and human rights treaties to which the country is a state party.
“Indeed, the right to strike and that of entitlement to full pay for days of strike are essential elements of trade union rights.
“Paying ASUU members or any workers half salaries solely for lawfully and peacefully exercising their right to strike constitutes an impermissible restriction on the right to freedom of association including the right to strike, which is an essential element in the principle of collective bargaining.
“The application of any purported ‘no work, no pay’ rule to deduct from the salaries of ASUU members would be clearly inconsistent and incompatible with the Nigerian Constitution and international standards.
“The right to strike is a keystone of modern industrial society. No society which lacks that right can be democratic. Any society which seeks to become democratic must secure that right.
“The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association has stated that the imposition of sanctions for strike action is not conducive to harmonious labour relations.”