Federal Government has called on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to advise its affiliate, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to follow the terms of the Trade Disputes Act and end its strike.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, made this call while speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2022 edition of the National Labor Advisory Council (NLAC) in Lagos, on Monday.
He also encouraged the Council to include a practical recipe for resolving conflicts with organizations that are not properly recognized as trade unions on its agenda, to ensure that they completely comply with the law’s stipulations.
“What will be the relationship with workers’ organizations that are not properly registered as trade unions? The labour Act is there and it says the minister can discuss with them. But they don’t fully conform with legal provisions, especially in terms of style of negotiation and conciliation. NLAC should therefore come to the aid of the country here.
“Even though the Trade Disputes Act permits the minister to apprehend and deal with these workers that have not been registered as unions, you can also see that when dealing with them, you encounter problems because they do not fully understand the nuisances or obey the labour laws as it should be.
“If you are a union, you give adequate notice before proceeding on strike. If you are a union too and your strike is apprehended, you go back to your work while the necessary adjustment is made to give you justice. NLAC is expected to get the workers’ side of the tripartite live up to their responsibilities in this regard,” Ngige said.
Ngige explained that some associations in critical sectors of health and education such as the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA); National Association of Resident Doctors(NARD) are not properly unionized.
“The Nigeria Medical Association is not a trade union; the National Association of Resident Doctors is not a trade union. They are associations of workers.
“The university teachers are registered under the Academic Staff Union of Universities and are affiliated to the Nigerian Labour Congress but that affiliation is only in name. It is not indeed, because they don’t obey the Labour Act as it concerns conciliation.
“For example, ASUU declared a month strike and called it a warning strike. It did not notify their employer, the Ministry of Education, nor did they notify me, the minister of labour that there is a breakdown in negotiation. I know that they had some discussions which were in limbo but I should be notified properly so that I can arrest the breakdown and bring it forward for proper conciliation.
“Now, I apprehended the dispute in consonance with the Labour Act. They came for conciliation, only for them to go back and continue the strike. This is illegal. The law is that once a dispute is apprehended, everybody returns to status quo ante. The law also says that if I arrest a dispute and the party or parties are not ready to confirm, I should transfer the dispute within fourteen days to either the Industrial Arbitration Panel or to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in line with section 17 of the Trade Disputes Act.
“But I’m concerned that if do this suo motu, this will not solve the problem of getting our children back to school outright
“So, I’m using this opportunity to plead with the NLC to which ASUU is affiliated, to call them to order, make them obey the law, to let them know what the Trade Disputes Act says and as university teachers who are even teaching industrial law, to abide by the law.
“They should call off that strike. That strike is not appropriately instituted. I have conciliated and made sure the issues in disputes have been decisively been dealt with,” he said.