The controversial sack of about 32 members of staff of the Rufus Giwa Polytechnic by the Polytechnic Management has continued to generate wide attention as the Polytechnic Management is currently facing the National Industrial Court sitting in Akure the Ondo State capital, where the affected 32 Staff had taken their case. The embattled staff had dragged the management of the school to the court to explain what they termed an unjust action by the Polytechnic Management and asking the Industrial Court to order their re-instatement based on the unjust nature of the termination of their jobs. The controversial termination of the affected staff which was being termed, by insiders in the institution, as a way of getting back at some of the staff perceived as being uncompromising with the Polytechnic Management because of their labour union activities is the latest addition to the spate of issues and crisis that had rocked the institution in recent times.
It would be recalled that the Academic Staff Union of the Polytechnic and some other unions on the Rufus Giwa Polytechnic campus had since 2008 been having a running battle with the Polytechnic over sundry issues that bothers on the welfare of the Polytechnic staff and which began sometime in October 2010 led to the death of five Rufus Giwa Polytechnic staff in a ghastly motor accident on the Akure-Owo Express Road. The five union members were returning to the Polytechnic from Akure the State Capital where they had gone to negotiate their demands with officials of the State Government over the lingering crisis.
The death of those five members of staff in 2010 had been a source of battle which all the unions in the Polytechnic had said continuously and even by those in the know could have been averted if not for the adamant nature of the Management and the State Government which refused to honour the agreement of the Polytechnic Consolidated Salary Scale as put in place by the Federal Government and which was supposed to be binding on all Polytechnics in Nigeria but which the Ondo State Government and the Rufus Giwa Management refused to honour.
According to those following the issues surrounding the controversial sack of the 32, the sack they insisted can not be divorced from the earlier crisis that had for long bedeviled the Rufus Giwa Polytechnic. This is because most of those sacked under the guise of re-organisation are key activists in the events of 2008 over issues bothering on staff salary and welfare.
The events leading to the sack of the 32 according to information available to National Infinity by confidants within the Polytechnic, started on the 31st of December 2012, the last working day of that year, when the Governing Council of the Polytechnic was said to have shifted its meeting to Akure rather than the practice of meeting on the Polytechnic campus and it was at the Akure meeting that the decision to sack the 32 was taken.
Aftermath of the meeting, the Governing Council issued a circular dated 2nd January, 2013 where the term ”re-organization” was used that 32 staff of the Polytechnic including an erstwhile Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of the Polytechnic who some National Infinity sources had often described as a pain in the neck of the Polytechnic and the State Government in his union activities while he held sway on account of his hardline and uncompromising postures when it comes to the welfare of the Polytechnic academic staff, and he had been in the fore-front of this fight since 2008 before the death of the five Poly lecturers and even after their death.
To some close watchers of events on the Polytechnic campus, and to a good number of Polytechnic staff and some of those affected by the sack who all pleaded anonymity, they see the use of the term “re-organisation” as strange in the termination of the jobs of the 32 staff as there was nothing that had been so “re-organised”, and they further wondered why it was only those 32 staff especially those who had been in the fore-front of union activities against the management over the welfare of the Polytechnic workers that were affected by the so called re-organisation exercise.
“ With the matter already at the Industrial Court which had sat over the case about six times between July 8, 2013 and February 12, 2014, the court had, in its bid to adjudicate the case, invited top Management staff of the Polytechnic including the Registrar and the Rector of the Polytechnic who had both been cross-examined. The Registrar and the Rector had admitted during cross examination that the sacked workers never faced any panel over any misconduct or query and that the sacked workers committed no offence but simply that the Polytechnic was going through some re-organisation which warranted their sack.
Some of those on the sack list and whose case is before the Industrial Court are the former Polytechnic Union leaders like the former Academic Staff Union Chairman, the former Senior Staff Union (SSANU), Chairman, the former PRO and Treasurer of the Academic Staff Union who was believed by watchers of events on the Polytechnic as a likely successor to the office of the Academic Staff Union before the big axe fell on them and the others. A National Infinity finding on the face-off between the Rufus Giwa management and the sacked 32 staff revealed that before the sacked 32 opted for the Court option to fight for their re-instatement, it had embarked on what was then termed a “political solution” which failed. The said “political solution” involved the sacked 32 reaching out to eminent Ondo State elder statesmen like Chief Olu Falae, Pa Reuben Fasonranti, leadership of the State House of Assembly, the Chief Judge of Ondo State and others through strong letters of appeal for them to intervene.