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Industrial court okays workers’ rights to strike

By Collins Olayinka, (Abuja) and Toyin Olasinde (Lagos)
19 July 2016   |   4:10 am
The National Industrial Court (NIC) has ruled that workers are entitled to embark on strike. In the judgment delivered by Hon. Justice Kanyip in a suit brought by the Federal Government challenging Nigeria Labour Congress...
Olusegun Oshinowo, NECA Director General.

Olusegun Oshinowo, NECA Director General.

• NECA decries disruption of activities

The National Industrial Court (NIC) has ruled that workers are entitled to embark on strike. In the judgment delivered by Hon. Justice Kanyip in a suit brought by the Federal Government challenging Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) over the protest against the recent hike in the price of petrol from N87 per litre to N145, the court held that Nigeria is a member of International Labour Organisation (ILO) and that ILO recognises strike as a negotiation tool by the workers.

The court further stated conditions for organising strike to include the obligation to give prior notice and room for negotiation.The court also held that the issue of increase in price of petroleum products is not a trade dispute but that workers have right to embark on strike to drive home their demand provided those in essential services are excluded.

The NLC team of lawyers led by Femi Falana and Kayode Ajulo, represented the TUC while the Federal Government was represented by Dayo Apata, the Director of Civil Litigation.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has urged the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to reconcile the warring factions of the central labour organisation.

Reacting to the invasion of its premises by the General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Joe Ajaero, the Director General of NECA, Olusegun Oshinowo, said that the disagreement over the leadership of NLC has made negotiation of labour issues difficult for employers.

He also said NECA did not deploy the us of thugs to dislodge people that disrupted its activities last week in Lagos.He alleged that the faction of the union, led by Joe Ajaero, had linked NECA to the use of thugs and hoodlums to dislodge the illegal picketing of its premises.

Oshinowo said that NECA is a law-abiding organization that would not resort to ‘’lawlessness to dislodge lawlessness”, saying, “this, actually, informed our decision to invite the Police and the Directorate of State Security (DSS) to protect us and our premises when we got wind of the Joe Ajaero faction’s plan to picket us.”

He further explained that in NECA’s investigation on the identity of those that came to dislodge Ajaero and his group revealed three scenarios and possibilities.

“The first possibility is the in-fighting among hoodlums and thugs, hired by Ajaero, over distribution of money paid them to carry out the illegal picket.
“Another group who were left out of the largesse, after an initial mobilisation, then decided to undermine the illegal picketing and a counter action by the legal and recognised NLC to stop Ajaero from further acting in the name of NLC and parading himself as its President.”

These are all possible leads, as we welcome the appropriate authority to investigate the cause of this mayhem, which ordinarily would not have occurred if Ajaero had respected the industrial relations laws of Nigeria and the law enforcement agencies present in NECA have acted decisively by dispersing the picketers who were very unruly and in fact paralyzed vehicular and human movement in the entire Ikeja neighbourhood.

We again affirm that trade unionism and union immunity is not a license for anyone to brazenly trample on the rights of other economic actors and breach public order.”

The NECA scribe posited that the cracks and lack of coordination within the industrial space was a show of the urgent need for social partners in the sector to initiate enduring reform.

“In the light of the current decadent state of Industrial Relations practice in Nigeria as evidenced by the kind of action perpetrated against NECA by the Joe Ajaero’s illegal faction of the union, NECA would once again want to call on the Federal Government of Nigeria as a matter of urgency to summon a summit of the social partners for the purpose of setting in motion the much-needed reform of our Industrial Relations’ System,” he submitted.

The event led to the postponement of NECA Annual General Meeting (AGM) as guests were denied entry into the venue of the meeting.In his reaction, Ajaero accused NECA members of deliberately sacking workers without following extant labour laws.The General Secretary of NUEE also debunked insinuations that he hired thugs to attack NECA premises.