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CONUA challenges FG over withheld salaries, set to for court action

By Adelowo Adebumiti
08 December 2022   |   4:00 am
The Congress of University Academics (CONUA) has expressed disappointment with the Federal Government for its refusal to pay withheld salaries of members.

Niyi Sunmonu

Say members not part of strike
The Congress of University Academics (CONUA) has expressed disappointment with the Federal Government for its refusal to pay withheld salaries of members.

The body wondered why the government would refuse to pay members when the union did not call for strike or joined in the eight months industrial action, which paralysed academic activities in the nation’s public universities.

CONUA, in a statement jointly signed by its President, Dr. Niyi Sunmonu, Secretary, Henry Oripeloye and Publicity Secretary, Dr. Ernest Nwoke, said it communicated the Federal Government of its non-involvement in the strike, and made it clear that the union is a separate and independent association in the university system.

The statement read in part: “CONUA formally made its non-involvement in the strike known to the Federal Government in a letter addressed to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, in April 2022.

“In the letter, we made it clear that because CONUA constituted a separate and independent union in the university system, our members did not call for any strike. This was followed by a Press Conference in Abuja on August 19, 2022 at which it was categorically stated that CONUA was not part of any ongoing strike, and that the “No Work No Pay” principle ought not to apply to members of the union.

“CONUA’s expectation is that due to express and categorical declaration, the government would seamlessly release our members’ outstanding salaries when it resumed payment of salaries to all university staff in October 2022. But to our dismay, CONUA members were also paid pro-rata salaries in complete disregard to the fact that we were indeed shut out of duties by the strike.

“Subsequently, we wrote to the Accountant-General of the Federatıon and the Ministry of Labour and Employment reminding them that it was an error to lump our members with those that declared and embarked on strike action. It was yet another shock for the outstanding backlog of salaries not to have been paid to our members along with the November 2022 salary.”

CONUA said the non-payment of members’ withheld salaries contravenes Section 43 (1b) of the Trade Disputes Act CAP. T8, which stated: “where any employer locks out his workers, the workers shall be entitled to wages and any other applicable remunerations for the period of the lock-out and the period of the lock-out shall not prejudicially affect any rights of the workers being rights dependent on the continuity of period of employment.”

“From the foregoing and as a law-abiding union that pledged to do things differently, we have resolved to seek legal redress of the illegal withholding of our legitimate salaries by taking the matter to court in consonance with the rights enshrined in our laws,” the union said.

The Federal Government, had in the wake of the strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) registered CONUA, as an alternative to the staff union.

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