By Monday Ijeh
Striking workers of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) have protested against the Federal Government’s continuous delay in implementing the agreement reached with their unions since 2011.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that part of the agreement includes improved funding, improved conditions of service and retirement age elongation to 65 years of research institutes workers.
The protest which took place on Jan. 29 at Sheda Science and Technology Complex (SHESTCO), near Kwali, saw three unions of NERDC protest along the Abuja-Lokoja road chanting solidarity songs.
The protesting unions under the auspices of JORAISU are the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Allied Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), Academic Staff Union of Research Institutes (ASURI) and the Non- Academic Staff Union (NASU).
Dr Ighalo Odiagbe, the Chairman of ASURI said the peaceful protest was to mount pressure on government to ensure the implementation of the agreement.
He said that payment of salary arrears, establishment of a coordinating body for research and development institutions, retirement age elongation to 65 years and increased funding were part of the agreement.
Mr Olufemi Alabi, the Chairman of NASU said the demands of the workers were reasonable and that government did not sign the agreement under duress.
He said it was unreasonable for the present government to exonerate itself from the agreement and blaming the strike on the past administration.
Mr Justine Nwokedi, the Chairman of SSAUTHRIAI who delivered the unions letter to Prof. Ismail Junaidu, the Executive Secretary of NERDC for onward delivery to the Minister of Education said the agreement dated back to 2011.
Nwokedi said the protest was part of efforts to get the attention of the FG to implement the agreement reached with the unions.
The letter jointly signed by the leadership of the three unions under JORAISU had on Nov. 14, 2017 called for an indefinite strike to press home their demand.
He said the strike was called after several efforts to get the attention of government to honour and implement the agreement failed.
“We are surprised that the Federal Government allowed the research sector, which is the backbone of development, to be paralysed.
“It is unfortunate that up till this moment, nothing has been done to attend to the plight of our members.
“Based on this, we enjoin you sir (Prof. Ismail Junaidu), to relay our displeasure to the appropriate authorities,” Nwokedi said.
Junaidu commended the workers for ensuring that peace was maintained during the protest and pledged to deliver the letter to the appropriate authority.
NAN reports that the research institutes cut across several ministries, parastatals and higher intuitions of learning.