Workers of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, on Friday, downed tools and shunned their duty posts over the alleged refusal of the institution’s Governing Council to address some of the inherited issues regarding workers’ unpaid entitlements and illegal deduction of salaries.
The workers under the non-teaching staff unions comprising the Non-Academic Staff of Universities, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities and the National Association of Academic Technologists unanimously vacated their offices, leading to the paralysis of non-academic activities in the university, which is currently on sessional break.
According to some of the workers, who converged at the school’s Senate Building where the Governing Council chaired by Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi was meeting on floor zero, the alleged illegal deductions from their basic salaries must be paid.
Our correspondent gathered that the school’s management had since 2014 been deducting some monies from the salaries of the workers allegedly for their pension scheme aside the deductions being made monthly by the National Pension Commission.
When this development was discovered by some top workers, a former acting bursar of the university was said to have confirmed that the management had been deducting the workers’ salaries, saying that the money was still kept safe in a separate account.
The workers also alleged that aside from the 7.5 percent deductions from the workers’ basic salaries for PENCOM, the management, instead of adding another 7.5 percent from the school put to the new pension scheme, the school authorities deducted another 7.5 percent of the salaries of the workers of the institution.
It was gathered that a committee was set up by the Governing Council to investigate the alleged deductions. After the completion of the investigation by the committee chaired by a professor from the university’s Department of Economics, the committee presented its recommendations to the Governing Council.
At a meeting between the workers and the Governing Council on Thursday evening, held at the school’s Amphi Theatre, the Council Chairman, Ogunbiyi, was said to have ignored some questions raised by workers concerning the recommendations submitted by the committee.
Angered by Ogunbiyi’s action, the workers on Friday mobilized themselves and shunned duties.
The ongoing clearance by the graduating students of the university was stalled, while former students of the school, who were on campus to obtain their medical reports for their National Youth Service Corps, were left unattended to as soon as the sudden industrial action began.
There was a mild drama at the Senate Building as members of the Governing Council shut themselves in their meeting room on hearing that workers had converged at the Senate Building.
When contacted on the telephone by our correspondent, the Chairman of NASU, Comrade Wole Odewunmi, said that he was not on campus as at 12:30pm, when workers were leaving their duty posts, saying that the workers might be reacting to the inability of the council to address the welfare and entitlements of workers.
Odewunmi accused the council of allegedly planning to buy a car worth N44 million for its chairman.
He said, “I am not on campus as I speak with you, but if it’s true that the workers are leaving their duty posts, I think they are reacting to the refusal of the Governing Council to address the situation they met. Instead of attending to the welfare of workers, they are busy trying to buy car worth N44 million. Workers are suffering and a council recently appointed is talking of buying car for its chairman. This is worrisome and I don’t think the workers can bear it any longer.”
A worker, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said that the monies deducted by the management was over one billion naira, saying that workers had been forced to obtain various loans that had been telling on their welfare negatively.
“Although, since the acting vice chancellor came on board, he has been trying his best to ensure good welfare for workers, but the governing council appears to have been sabotaging his efforts. The council has refused to work on the recommendations made by the special task force inaugurated to investigate various illegal deductions of our salaries since 2014. We hear they are trying to buy a car for Dr. Ogunbiyi, the council chairman at the rate of N44 million, when workers are suffering and being denied their earned allowances and other entitlements,” he said.
The Public Relations Officer of the university, Mr Abiodun Olanrewaju, did not pick several calls made to his phone.