Dr. Aniekan Sampson Brown is the dean students Affairs of the University of Uyo and immediate past chairman of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) University of Uyo, chapter. Before he bowed out as chairman last week, he spoke to the newsmen on the current strike embarked upon by the Non Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), maintaining that NASU has no basis to go on strike. ESSEH IKORA presents the excerpts:
Lectures are ongoing while NASU is on strike, one would have thought that ASUU in the spirit of unionism would join in the strike, what is the position of ASUU?
As lecturers in the university system, our job is to teach the students, that is what we are doing. We have access to learning and teaching materials. We have access to the keys. We have taken up our responsibilities, just to get our own job done. We are not NASU. We are not on strike. We are not sure of why NASU are on strike, otherwise we would have joined in the strike in the spirit of unionism. In the campus you hear of JAC (Joint Action Committee) which is made up of Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU), Non- Academic Senior Staff Union of Universities (NASU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) you will not have ASUU there. There are some dichotomies that have been factored into the strike. ASSU is an organized labour union. The concept of sympathy strike, we have to be informed. We operate as a union. The directive to go on strike has to come from the headquarters of our union. As we speak, JAC is on strike not ASUU. I don’t know the basis of the strike. You have some of them saying that they are obvious of the fact that they are working in the same with ASSU why should the government give them certain amount of money without giving them same. As Chairman of ASUU I cannot tell you why they are on strike. Normally, when ASUU embarks on strike action, we do our own best to communicate with the other unions.
One of the Complaints is that their members are not paid Earned allowance, what is Earned Allowance and who is qualified to earn it?
The basis of Earned Academic Allowance is predicated on been earned. That means it is not for everybody, not all academic staff earn it, you must be able to earn it. For instance, teaching services allowance, supervision allowance and excess work allowance among others. The excess work allowance is computed in the instance of the credit hours you teach. The number of students you teach, the number of lecturers who participated in the teaching, determines it. Earned Allowance varies from department to department, faculty to faculty. It is possible to have people who are professors in the university, yet, they didn’t earn it, yet they have not withdrawn their services.
Another form of earned allowance is the responsibility allowance. If you are one of those you are not entitled to earn it. It is not a general allowance and people must prove where it is earned. If you are teaching two students for instance, you are not entitled to earn any excess allowance because you are not doing any excess work. Every additional student to the programme, the government pays the lecturer excess allowance as agreed to by the Federal Government in 2009 agreement. That is where NASU has missed it. As Chairman of ASUU, I know of professors who merely work, they are not factored into earned which NASU is compelling the government to pay because they don’t merit it.
Sir, why the disparity?
Government pays members of JAC overtime allowances and no ASUU member is complaining. Our union is that of intellectual, we run along with extended agreement and principles.
What is your advice to the Federal government?
It is a decision on the realities of public universities. Public universities the world over you will agree with me that, beyond academic staff in the university, others are support staff. I will want government to stand up with the height of responsibility to let Nigerians know the context of university system, and on that note it would shock you that as we speak academic staff are not paid hazard allowance but NASU members are been paid hazard into our agreement of 2009 we don’t bother. Government should take the responsibility by letting the system know how the system should run.