Fresh onslaught against labour strikes
As the drum of another national strike action gets louder, the Federal Government has taken two steps to show its readiness to reduce industrial strike action to the barest minimum.Indeed, labour sector watchers say the threat to apply ‘no work, no pay’ and government approaching the National Industrial Court (NIC) to stop the organised labour strike over the stoppage of the negotiated N30, 000 as the new minimum wage, shows that the Federal Government is more than determined to gag the labour unions in the country.
But labour is having none of that. This is not the first time the Federal Government would be approaching courts to stop labour from calling out its members on strike action. Former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Adams Oshiomhole was reported to have described such judgment as ‘black market’ ruling that is strange and antithetical to labour rights of the Nigerian workers.
The deputy President of the NLC, Peters Adeyemi simply dismissed ‘no work, no pay’ policy as a gimmick government always comes up in an attempt to prevent labour from resisting unfriendly labour policies of government and failure to honour agreements. His explanation: “No work, no pay is a gimmick that government normally adopts when they are not willing to respond to the yearnings and aspirations of the workers. We are amazed that government is talking about no work, no pay at this time when they have refused to agree to a new minimum wage and knowing that the Nigerian workers are on the verge of embarking on strike. Government is never conscious of its actions, which will readily affect their fortune.
How can this come at a time that most state governments are not paying salaries and some institutions paying salaries in percentages? How can a government with good conscience be talking about no work, no pay when they have various memorandum of understandings signed with unions that have not been implemented. To me, I think this is a big joke. This clearly offends the fundamental rights of the people as enshrined in our constitution as well as offends ILO conventions that are ratified by Nigeria. For me, it is nonsensical and unreasonable. No work, no pay notwithstanding, we will continue to fight for our rights.”
Adeyemi, who is also the General Secretary of the Non-Academic Staff Union and Associated Institutions (NASU) insisted that ‘no work, no pay’, cannot be applied in a vacuum. He added: “Government cannot cite only a portion of the law; it has to take the all the sections of the law on board. As a worker working in Nigeria and as a trade unionist, we are in a war situation. Any attempt to apply no work, no pay selectively by government will not happen.”
Apart from ‘no work, no pay’ approach aimed at discouraging workers from participating in the impending strike action slated for today (Tuesday) barring adoption of N30, 000 minimum wage which the organised labour is demanding and submitting the report of the tripartite committee to President Muhammadu Buhari for onward transmission to the National Assembly for legislative action, the Federal Government has also approached the National Industrial Court (NIC) to seek an injunction to stop the strike.
Delivering ruling in an ex- parte application by Justice Kado Sanusi, the court restrain the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TLC) from engaging in the proposed strike pending the determination of the substantive suit filed by the Federal Government and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
Justice Sanusi also restrained the NLC, TUC and the Incorporated Trustees of the Nigerian Governors Forum listed as the first to the third defendants from taking steps capable of destroying the subject of the dispute.In granting the ex-parte injunction, the Judge said he is granting the ex-parte application as argued by the Solicitor-General of the Federation (SGF), Dayo Apata, who insisted that the strike action would inflict untold hardship on the nation, the economy and the Nigerian people.
In his reaction to the fresh twist, President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba said the organised labour is not aware of the said court ruling.His words: “We are not aware of any court ruling and we have not been served any notice. We have just concluded our joint organ meetings of the Central Working Committees of the Labour Centres of the NLC, Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Labour Congress (ULC) in Lagos.
“The meeting is the final preparation for a full engagement with the government on the new national minimum wage and we have taken our decision to go on the strike. Our decision is to go ahead with the nationwide strike, unless the government does the needful.”Also, the General Secretary of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Musa Lawal said the centre was not aware of any court ruling concerning the planned strike by organised labour.
“We are not aware, because we have not been served any court order. We have taken our decision and we are going to stand by that,” he said.Record shows that since the NLC-led organised labour has been embarking on strike action, which became more popularly during the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration as a result of incessant increment in the price of petrol pump price, court orders have never succeeded in stopping labour strike action in Nigeria. This latest action is likely to suffer same fate.
Voices of rejection of using court ruling to stall strike action has also been rejected at the state level.From Kwara state, the state TUC Chairman, Kola Olumoh said the purported NIC ruling would not stop the proposed nationwide strike.He said in llorin that the order was a ploy to cause confusion, which was already belated, adding that the national body of the organised Labour unions would respond to the ruling whenever it gets the notice, while the proposed nationwide strike would continue. Olumoh said Labour was magnanimous enough to stand at N30, 000 minimum wage for workers, which he noted could not be compared with the jumbo pay of political office holders.
He said Kwara state is fully prepared for the strike if the Federal Government fails to accept the N30, 000 as minimum wage. He advised workers in the state to fully prepare for the strike and cooperate with the labour unions in the struggle.He alleged that most state governments in the country spent about 40 per cent of their monthly allocations for salary and wondered why they were rejecting N30, 000 minimum wage.
The Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), had, in a communiqué after its meeting, insisted that they can only pay N22, 500 as the new national minimum wage.The organised labour has reiterated its position that any figure below N30, 000 would not be acceptable to them and called on its members to mobilise in preparation for the commencement of the strike on November 6, unless necessary steps were taken to adopt the recommendation of the Tripartite Committee.
Labour resolved that if government fails to respond and address the issues of making sure the report is signed by the chairman of the tripartite negotiating council committee, Ama Pepple, and submitted to Buhari for speedy enactment into law, the organised labour would commence the national strike by midnight of Tuesday, November 6.
Wabba, who spoke after the joint Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting of NLC, TUC and United Labour Congress’ (ULC) in Lagos, he said: “The decision is taken by all trade unions in Nigeria. The issue of minimum wage is at the heart of every worker, they have suffered monumentally, in terms of purchasing power from the value of N18, 000 to the value that we have now. Therefore, this issue is very central.
“The demand is very straightforward. We are open to dialogue, but dialogue must have an end. If we must have dialogue for one year and there is no end to that, certainly there is a deceit and we are not ready for that. We will not actually participate for a process that will not have an end. This is where we are now and it is unambiguous that a worker who creates wealth needs to be taken care of.”