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ASUP insists on strike until government implements demands

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Striking polytechnic teachers have insisted on continuing with their industrial action until the Federal Government meets all their demands.

The teachers, under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), said discussions on contending issues had been concluded with a memorandum of action signed, but the implementation of items in the signed document was not satisfactory to the union.

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The body had, in a nine-point demand, requested among others, implementation of new salary scheme, revitalisation of polytechnics, the inauguration of the national commission for polytechnics, implementation of new national minimum wage, payment of arrears, among others.

In an exclusive interview with The Guardian, ASUP President, Anderson Ezeibe, faulted claims by the Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, that issues with ASUP had been settled, saying it was a ploy to discredit the union.

Ezeibe said: “The minister, by his claims, showed a clear lack of understanding of issues in dispute as well as steps being taken to resolve them. He was not part of negotiation or review meetings, so does not understand the issues. We believed he was shifting the blame to the union in order to blackmail members into submission. It was a wrong strategy because the union is focused on issues and would not give in to blackmail.”

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While accusing successive governments of neglecting polytechnic education, Ezeibe said education policies are discriminatory against polytechnics, their teachers as well as their products. 

To address this, the ASUP chief said the government must ensure proper funding; supervision and regulation of standards for polytechnic education while also removing discriminatory policies against the sub-sector.

Speaking on the positive concessions so far recorded since the beginning of the strike, Ezeibe said this could be seen in the reappointment and inauguration of governing councils of federal polytechnics, as well as the inauguration of visitation panels. 

“In Kano, the government has also agreed to implement the 65-year retirement age for our members. However, despite signing up to release N15billion for infrastructural development, the government is yet to release the funds. The same goes for payment of arrears of minimum wage owed members as contained in the signed agreement.

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“The reappointment and inauguration of governing councils is an important aspect in our demands. This was done in the course of the strike. Government gave the impression that right and proper things are only done when unions go on strike, that is to say that government by its actions or inaction gave workers a leeway to down tools.

Reacting to recent protests by students at the Federal Secretariat in Abuja, calling for an end to the lingering strike, Ezeibe said the struggle is also about the well-being of students. 

 “They know that they are discriminated against as products of polytechnics. There is no doubt that the students feel the pains and frustration of their lecturers,” Ezeibe added.

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