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CONUA expresses dissatisfaction with FG over failure to pay withheld salaries to its members

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The Congress of University Academics, CONUA, has expressed its dissatisfaction with the Federal Government, particularly the Ministry of Labour and Employment, for failing to pay withheld salaries to its members.

It noted that: “even when the government knew that the union did not call for strike action and its members were not involved in the strike action that lasted for eight months and shut down the university system nationwide.”

CONUA, in a statement on Tuesday mentioned that it was inappropriate for the FG to group the association with members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, who went on an eight-month strike between February and October 2022.

The statement was signed by CONUA’s National President, Secretary, and Publicity Secretary, Niyi Sunmonu, Henry Oripeloye and Ernest Nwoke.

The new union of lecturers is therefore considering dragging the government to court for withholding its members’ salaries.

The statement partly read: “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 expects that, due to the express and categorical declaration, the government would seamlessly release our members’ outstanding salaries when it resumes the 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 for the fact that we were indeed shut out of duties by the strike.

“We then wrote to the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Ministry of Labour and Employment, reminding them that lumping our members in with those who declared and went on strike was a mistake. 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 “our withheld salaries” contravenes Section 43 (1b) of the Trade Disputes Act CAP. T8, which stated that “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 the period of employment.”

“This provision is consistent with global best practices.

“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 added.

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