Fresh onslaught against labour strikes
AS the drum of another national strike gets louder, the Federal Government has taken two steps to show its readiness to reduce industrial action to the barest minimum.
Indeed, labour sector watchers say the threat to apply ‘no work, no pay’ and 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 the Federal Government is determined to gag labour unions in the country.
But labour is having none of that.
This is not the first time the Government would be approaching the courts to stop labour from calling out its members on strike. 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 the ‘no work, no pay’ policy as a gimmick government always came up with in an attempt to prevent labour from resisting unfriendly labour policies 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 fortunes. 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 gov- ernment 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 the ‘no work, no pay’ approach aimed at discouraging workers from participating in the action slated for today (Tuesday), barring adoption of N30, 000 minimum wage, Government also approached the National Industrial Court to seek an injunction to stop the strike.
Delivering ruling in an exparte application by Justice Kado Sanusi, the court restrain the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) from engaging in the pro- posed 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 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 TUC, Musa Lawal, said the congress 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, which became more popular during the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration as a result of incessant increment in the price of petrol pump price, court orders have never stopped labour action in Nigeria. This latest injunction is likely to suffer same fate.
Voices of rejection of using court ruling to stall the strike have 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.