The federal government of Nigeria has threatened to implement the no work, no pay policy for the striking non-academic workers of public universities.
The Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige handed down the warning on Thursday during a meeting with the union representatives as he noted that Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act 2004 and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) statutes permit the government to stop the salaries of workers when they are on strike.
It will be recalled the non-teaching staff of public universities in the country comprising the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Allied Institutions (NASU) had embarked on indefinite strike action since February 5, 2021, and had threatened the action would last until the government meets their demands.
The Joint Action Committee of SSANU and NASU had embarked on the strike over issues with the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) introduced by the federal government and the sharing formula for the N40 billion Earned Allowances.
Other issues they want the government to address are – nonpayment of retirement benefits to retirees, and nonpayment of minimum wage arrears which has been paid to other ministries, departments and agencies.
However, Ngige on Thursday declared the strike illegal, noting that the action of the striking workers contravened Nigeria’s labour laws and the statutes of ILO.
The Minister added that strike actions during negotiations was an act of intimidation, which should not be allowed during labour negotiations.
He accused the union members of going on strike even while the government had started attending to their demands.
In his words, “You asked for an adjournment, we gave an adjournment and you used the period of adjournment to go on full blown strike. That is not right. It is not social dialoguing.
“It is against ILO statutes. The ILO statute says you have a right to go on strike and your employer has a right not to pay you and use the same money to keep the enterprise going.
“A lot of water went under the ground and I asked our ministry to write you officially and let you know that what you did is not in conformity with the Trade Dispute norms and as in our labour laws. You have replied too and the Permanent Secretary has brought to my attention your reply and I am not very happy about it.
“Example of why I am not happy is that you were given instances that ASUU while on this table, declared strike. You don’t use a bad example to showcase what is the norm.
“Why should you as a union that is labour friendly and has experienced people in trade dispute management, toe that line?
“You want me to start applying to Mr. President for a compassionate waiver against Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act. That is not fair.
“We are permitted by Law to stop payment of wages during the period of strike. It is in the labour laws. I didn’t make the law and President Buhari didn’t make the law. These are laws we made here in 2004, ‘the Trade Dispute act’.
“That is why I am insistent that no matter what happens today, I must do this conciliation with you. But if you opt out, there are options left for me. I can transfer this conciliation.
“There are levels. I can transfer to National Industrial Court suo moto (direct) or Industrial Arbitration Panel. That is the second level.
“But if you come here for conciliation, don’t take me for a ride. Don’t take the conciliator for a ride at any level because we don’t have judicial powers like IAP or NIC. But this is our first level of conciliation and the rules of conciliation must be observed by all. The rule must be observed by all and that rule is that if there is an apprehension following your notice, you finish the discussion.
“At our last meeting we had a 7-point agenda, we discussed two of them and you asked for an adjournment to come back to negotiation table.
“That adjournment is not a period for you to go on strike. I want us to finish the rest if you wish. If don’t wish, then I refer you to IAP or NIC. When you finish, the judgment will be transmitted for me for execution.”
However, in response, the General Secretary of NASU, Peter Adeyemi, said the unions have only done what is necessary based on how the government treated their members.
He argued that the rights of the members should not be taken away from them.
“How do you explain that you gave N40 billion to a sector and N10 billion was given to three unions. You cannot beat us and tell us not to cry,” he told the Minister.
The meeting has been adjourned till Friday, 12th February.
Source: Naija News