…Organised Labour kicks
In an effort to curtail the issue of incessant strikes usually embarked upon by the Nigeria labour unions, the Federal Government has introduced a ‘no work, no pay’ policy.
But the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has faulted the move by the Federal Government, arguing that the policy is against the rights of the workers.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, announced the policy on Wednesday shortly after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at Aso Villa, Abuja.
Ngige said that FEC approved the draft White Paper on the report of the Technical Committee on the Industrial Relations Matters in the Federal Public Service.
Going by this development, a fresh face-off between the organised labour and the Federal Government is imminent.
The clause which is contained in section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act would be transmitted to the National Assembly anytime soon.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, who briefed State House correspondents of the development, however, confirmed that the National Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage has not reached a truce yet on a consensus benchmark for wages.
He explained that state governments were still insisting on N20,700 as the least they can afford, while Federal Government has not shifted ground from N24,000 even though the organised labour have pegged their minimum wage on N30,000 respectively.
Other reforms contained in the white paper which government plans to use in checkmating the excesses of unionists includes specified tenure timeframe for union’s executives, parties to represent government and unions in collective bargaining agreement, maximum of seven years’ time frame for resident doctors to conclude their programme among others.
Reacting, President of NLC, Comrade Aliyu Wabba, said: “The president cannot apply such rules while negotiation is still ongoing and also with the fact that it is contrary to the principles of the rule of law.
“Let me tell you that the workers have the right to protest according to the labour law all over the world, and I can also tell you that such would have been the other way round which is “no pay, no work, which means if you don’t pay, no work will be done for you.
So the workers cannot be cowed into agreeing to such move, we will not agree. This is because the workers are not slaves; they deserve their pay having worked for it and in furtherance a pay rise”.
The Organised Labour said it would meet today to take final decision on the new national minimum wage for workers, since Federal Government has delayed to announce its figure.
On the No work, no pay policy, the Labour minister further explained: “These contentious areas are the enforcement of Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act Law of the Federation 2004.
This is the section that deals with lock out of workers by their employers without declaring redundancy appropriately because the same establishments especially in the private sector, workers are locked out by their employers.
The law there says that if you lock out your workers without passing through the normal channel, due process for the period of the lock out,
the worker is assumed to be at work and will receive all remunerations and allowances and benefits accruing to him for the period and that period will also be counted to him as a pensionable period in computation of his pension.
“But when workers go on strike, the principle of ‘No work, no pay’ will also be applied because that principle is enshrined in that same section 43 of the labour act.
That section says for the period a worker withdraws his services, government or his employers are not entitled to pay and the period for which they were absent will not count as part of his pensionable period in the public service.
“So, Council accepted it as a White Paper recommendation that should be gazetted because even the National Industrial Court has made pronouncement on that law and said that it is clear.
“Another area is where the public servants remaining permanently in the executive bodies of trade unions. Government realises that some persons in the public service go into trade union executive positions, hold offices and they do that for life for as long as they are in the service.
And in doing so, they will refuse postings and redeployment under the guise that they are doing trade union activities, government says no.
“Government frowns at office that doesn’t have a tenure. Trade unions now should give us Constitution that must have tenure at least maximum of two tenures for any elective position.
“Next point is the issue of skipping. You all know about the history of skipping. The doctors want to skip, the doctors want to skip, the laboratory technologist wants to skip always especially in the medical sector.
It has now spilled over into the general public service. Therefore government says Head of Service of the Federation must bring out a circular immediately to stop skipping arrangements.
“The next point is the issue of resident training for medical doctors. The medical training for resident doctors has been contentious. Some medical doctors come into the training and become professional unionists and stay there as permanent job.
“The residency training is actually not a permanent job as such; it is conveyors built arrangements by which you stay and drop off, another people come in so government has fixed a tenure for resident training, seven years within which you can pass all your exams. If you don’t pass all your exams after seven years, you are off.”