It was a sad Monday for indeed, over 250 staffers of the Abia State Polytechnic, Aba following their disengagement from service by the management of the Polytechnic led by the rector, Prof. Friday E. Eboh.
The Nation had reported that the leadership of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics, (SSANIP) and Non Academic Staff Union (NASU), Abia State Polytechnic chapters had issued 14 days ultimatum to the management of the institution with conditions upon which the planned restructuring could take place.
Information had it that before the expiration of the ultimatum, the leadership of the workers’ unions after a solemn assembly at the school pavilion, began indefinite industrial action as a pro-active measure to serve their members their sack letters which privy sources had it were already in the school on Friday morning.
Sources in the institution who spoke to our reporter said that when the management saw that their aims of relieving the workers from their jobs could fail, they reportedly persuaded Heads of various departments whose staffers were affected to sign the said sack letters on behalf of the affected workers.
Though the names of the sacked workers were still yet unknown at the time of filing the report, a release issued by the institution’s Public Relations Officer, Mrs. Chinyere Eze obtained by our reporter on Monday which confirmed the sacking of the workers read “In our determined drive to reposition Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, for greater operational efficiency we wish to inform members of the public that we have commenced the implementation of the review report on verification of staff and their certificates, as approved by the state executive council in April 2019.
“Following painstaking verification and reviews, letters have been issued to 258 staff members whose services are no longer required by the institution. All the affected staff are receiving full severance payment in line with their condition of service with the school. They will also receive due outstanding salaries as other workers are being paid.
“Among other things, the ongoing reform is expected to position the institution to achieve its motto of “towards excellence in technology”, meet regular salary obligations of its workforce as well as create necessary environment for academic excellence that the institution is known for.”
But in his response, the Chairman of SSANIP, Abia State Polytechnic, Comrade Nwachukwu Chuks in a telephone interview said “The management forced the HODs to sign the letters on behalf of those staff. The thing is that the HODs are now calling some of the workers to come and collect their sack letters in their offices.
“But we have asked our members to stay away from office until these issues are looked into, since the HODs cannot resist the pressure of receiving the letters. We asked the entire workers to stay away from office because an injury to one is injury to all. There is no how that we can divide our house. It is a union decision that everyone should abide with.
“We asked them to allow us to be part of the process to know the criteria upon which the exercise is going on, but the management refused. Whether it was a victimization or witch-hunting, we don’t know. We, members and leadership of various unions are in the dark over the basis upon which the management and the state government used in sacking the people that they sacked.
“As we speak, we don’t know the people that are involved, because the letters were sealed off. It is the HODs who received the letters on behalf of the sacked workers that will know the people that are affected. Like I said, the unions are at loss.
“We are exploring every legal means available to the unions. We are discussing with our parent body. We are also discussing with stakeholders in the Labour Industry. We are willing and open to engage the management and government in further discussion over this issue.
“Our grouse is that it is not supposed to be a unilateral decision. Engagement and disengagement of staff is under what we call collective bargaining. You bargain your employment and also bargain your disengagement. Even when one dies while in active service, there should be dialogue between the bereaved family and the management. We want them to open avenue for us to talk over these issues, they have refused.
“The truth of the matter is that which staffers are affected? What was the justification for their removal? What parameter did they use to do what they are doing because we know that we have method of approaching this kind of situation? But they refused to follow the standard. We are in a very disturbing situation in the polytechnic and create room for suspicion.
“We asked our staff to stay away from work because of the presence of the police and other security agencies in the school who are creating fear and panic and in order to avoid any unforeseen circumstance, having known that the workers safety is of great importance to us, we asked them to stay away from office until the institution is rid of armed men.
“Does the management need to bring in armed men if they are doing genuine downsizing? Do they need to do with force? Why do they want to achieve by bringing in armed policemen in the system.
But because they know that what they are doing is wrong and because they want to use force which is illegal, that is why we are saying no to it. Let the armed men bearing leave the campus. Let the campus be congenial so that people can return to work. Let other issues pertaining to this downsizing be discussed with the union.
“What are they afraid of? Why not place the card on the table? Why not talk to the unions? Why not make open the criteria and parameter of the downsizing open? What are they hiding? If the governor has given them the mandate to do that, why don’t they get the stakeholders on a roundtable to discuss these issues and reduce the tension in the land? Why are they doing this, bearing in mind that they are owing workers 16 months’ salary arrears and that the workers are already dying of hunger? Why are they humiliating them the more?”
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Some of the affected senior and junior staffers of Abia Poly received three months and one month salary alerts from their respective banks before the close of work in lieu of the sack, while the junior staff were paid one month salary.