Members of the non-teaching staff of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike in Abia, on Monday began a one-week work-to-rule to protest against the alleged management’s deductions and percentage payment of their salaries.
The workers are operating under the aegis of the Joint Account Committee (JAC), comprising Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
The action of the workers brought administrative activities in the school to a halt on Monday. The Chairman of JAC, Mr Ken Njoku, said that the action was designed to press home their demand for the management to start paying them their full salaries without further delay.
He said that the management Michael Okpara University of Agriculture had continued to pay them a percentage of their salaries since January 2017, adding that they were paid 84 per cent in June.
“The university began to pay us a percentage of our salaries in January 2017, ranging from 60, 65, 68, 75 to 84 per cent in June.” The labour leader said that the unremitted deductions since 2015 amounted to more than N200 million.
He also said that the unpaid percentage of their salaries amounted to about three months salary of over one billion naira. Njoku said that “this is no longer acceptable to workers,” adding that several meetings with the management had not yielded any positive results.
“Management of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture claimed that it resorted to partial payment of salaries because its wage bill was higher than the subvention from the Federal Government,” he said.
He said that workers had shown enough understanding but that their patience had run out. He said that the unions were; more worried that even after the management sacked no fewer than 8,000 workers early in 2017 to be; able to pay full salaries, the problem still lingered.
“We feel that we have shown enough understanding for more than two years yet there doesn’t seem to be; a solution in sight. “Our members come to work every day and work full time but we receive partial salaries,” Njoku said.
He said that the development was biting hard on the workers; and that some of them could no longer afford to pay their house rents and children’s school fees. Njoku said, “many of us are; very sick, while some have died because they could not raise money to buy drugs.
“We asked for 100 per cent of our June salary but what we got was 84 per cent. “We cannot continue this way so we appeal to the management of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture; and Federal Government to understand and appreciate our plight.”
He said that the second leg of their agitation was; the monthly deductions from their salaries by the university for cooperative societies and union dues. He alleged that since October 2015, the management had been; making deductions from their salaries without remitting them to the unions and cooperatives.
“It was recently that the management of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture; started making percentage remittances to the appropriate quarters,” Njoku said. He said that while they were; paid 84 per cent of their June salary, the university remitted only 47 per cent to the unions as dues.
He said that the implication was; that some members of the cooperatives could no longer access facilities from their unions; and cooperatives to solve their problems. Banks had started surcharging the co-operators because of the university’s alleged inability to remit the deductions to the banks.
Reacting to the development, the Public Relations Officer of the University, Mrs Ada Odefa, blamed the situation on the drop in the institution’s subvention from the Federal Government.
Odefa said, “Federal Government owes the university a lot of money and part of it is; supposed to cover the money the unions are demanding. “The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Francis Otunta, is working hard to get the money. It is not that the money is here and he is sitting on it and would not want to pay them.”
She said that the management had continued to hold talks with the unions on the matter; and appealed to them to show greater understanding and maintain the peace.