Oshinowo urges government to decentralise collective bargaining in universities
Former Director-General of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Olusegun Oshinowo has urged the Federal Government to decentralise the collective bargaining system in the tertiary education sector by allowing each university to negotiate with its branch Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
In an interview with The Guardian, Oshinowo noted that industrial actions in the sector have not benefited stakeholders.
His words: “Time has, indeed, come for a new approach to collective bargaining in the tertiary education sector to banish forever this unsavoury recurring decimal of strikes. No one needs to be told that these frequent strikes show the clear failure of industrial relations and collective bargaining in our polity. If I may ask the question: Who is the employer of the lecturers? The University is, of course. And who is the owner/financier of the universities? The government and in our case two different levels of government: state and federal. Are they the same? Legally speaking, in the context of an employment relationship, they are not. ASUU as a union representing the workers needs an employer, in the real sense of it, to relate with.”
Oshinowo observed that in an ideal situation, governing councils are employers of workers in tertiary institutions and not the government.
He submitted that the management/Council of the universities are the right employers, saying, “this is wrong and I believe the time has come for the government to put a stop to that. ASUU, whether as a National Union or through its branches in the universities should be negotiating with the management/council of the individual universities – at both state and federal universities.”
The former NECA chief noted that the government, over the years, has allowed itself to be boxed into the corner of an employer when, in the real sense of it, it is not.
“The university is the employer of members of ASUU. The letter of employment of each lecturer bears the insignia and identity of the university that has employed him,” he stated.
According to Oshinowo, the government’s acceptance of the current role and disposition of ASUU is to its detriment and a major reason for the perennial strike.
He argued that the government has unwittingly and perhaps ignorantly created an unsustainable bargaining structure, which has fitted perfectly into ASUU’s unrealistic objective of ensuring a uniform condition of employment for all lecturers in the public universities when the operating and financial situations of the universities are not the same.
He wondered what the industrial space in the banking industry, oil sector would be if all bankers and oil workers earned uniform salaries and the same conditions of service.
He urged the Federal Government to urgently initiate a reform of the industrial relations and collective bargaining structure in the education tertiary sector such that the owner or financier of the business (the government) like shareholders of a business enterprise is freed from direct involvement in an employment relationship with the union.
He was quick to add that there is the option of creating an industry/sector-wide bargaining structure that will pitch ASUU against a representative collegiate of the universities, acting as an employer union, explaining that this option of bargaining structure which was introduced by the Swedish in the 70s and influenced the industrial relations reform in Nigeria during that same period has become dysfunctional.