The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has reported the Nigerian government to the International Labour Organisation, accusing the government of working through the back door to proscribe the Congress and undermine collective labour relations in the country.
President of the Nigeria Labour Congress and representative of workers on the Governing Board of the ILO, Comrade Ayuba Wabba told the Committee on Application of Standard that the government has forwarded a new bill to the National Assembly which will distort the nation’s industrial relations landscape.
The NLC also reported the Kaduna and Kogi state governments to the World Labour body over total disregard for the principle of collective bargaining which constitutes violations of ILO convention 98 for sacking workers indiscriminately and refusal tom pay salary of workers.
Wabba told the Committee which meets to review industrial relations in member countries that part of the bill sent to the nation’s parliament seeks to proscribe the NLC if it fails to amend its constitution to conform to the bill two years after being passed into law.
He said: “A new version of the Collective Labour Relations Bill is not a product of consultation and largely different from the one we have made inputs to some years ago. Strangely, this new version was to be surreptitiously passed into law, but for our vigilance and the candor of the parliament to undertake due diligence.
“Evidence of our claim that the intentions of the amendment were to undermine trade unions and unnecessarily distort our industrial relations landscape and temperature can be seen in one of the portions of this new bill which says “if after two years of commencement of the application of this Act, and the Nigeria Labour Congress has not amended her constitution to conform to this Act, it shall stand proscribed”.
He said further that “the mention of the name of our organisation in a draft proposal for amendment betrayed the undisguised malicious intention of the amendment.”
The NLC President maintained that “interference in collective negotiation process in the private sector has been a cause of worry to the Committee since 2009. The government continues to claim that sectorial collective bargaining agreement must have its blessing before it becomes implementable so that there is no “undue economic disruption” and so it has benchmarks for wages. This clearly contradict Article 4 of this Convention for which the Committee has sharply pointed in this report being discussed by this Conference Committee.
“The Collective Labour Relations Bill the Committee of Experts refers to started over 10 year ago. Still, no end in sight. Aside the process being very slow and delayed, the intention of government with respect to the review and amendments are giving us cause for concerns.
“As against the advice of the Committee of experts to bring labour laws in conformity with the Convention, we can report that, sadly, this is not the case at present. Rather, the government is seeking to use the process to weaken and destroy trade unions and at the same time claiming to expand “freedom of association and volunteerism”.
He also said “few days ago, another infraction to this convention was committed by the Ministry of Labour. The Minister was reported in some national dailies as saying that workers should not expect the National Minimum (still under discussion) to be finalised by September. When the minimum wage negotiation started, it was agreed by all partners that it will terminate with an outcome in September. The Minister is thus unilaterally determining the negotiation outcome.
“We ask that this Committee call on the Nigerian government to allow for genuine and good faith engineering of the intended reforms of the labour laws so as to bring them in conformity to the provisions of this convention. We also pray this Committee to ensure that the Nigerian government work genuinely with the High Level Mission that the Committee of Experts has severally proposed, which we know will benefit Nigeria, her industrial relations practices and ultimately, her economy”.
Turning to the issue of Kaduna and Kogi states, the NLC President said “In 2017, the government of Kaduna State, Northwest Nigeria, sacked with a slant of disingenuous manner 38,000 workers comprising of 22,000 teachers, about 5,000 Local government Councils, and over 8,000 from ministries, departments, agencies, as well as those in the tertiary institutions under the guise of a vague reform.
“The sack was carried out without recourse to respect and consideration for established rules in handling such process, including the provisions in the existing public sector collective bargaining procedures. The Nigeria Labour Congress officially reported this violation to the Ministry of Labour.
“We wish to report that the disregard for collective bargaining extant laws and practices was total. For instance, the Nigeria Union of Teachers challenged this illegal sack in court and got a restraining order that the proposed sack should be put on hold until the substantive suit is decided. The court order was blatantly disregarded and disobeyed by the state government.
He accused the Kaduna state government of also violating section 16(A) of the Trade Union Act, by withholding seven months deductions to all the unions, while also going ahead to stop such deductions through a government circular.
“In Kogi State, North-central Nigeria, the government is refusing to abide by collective bargaining agreement concerning the payment and protection of wages. Workers and pensioners in that state are owed over 7 months salaries and pension benefits. This is in spite of repeated genuine efforts by the Federal Government to ameliorate this problem through the granting, three times, of financial bailout to all the affected states.
“In July 2017, the Kogi state government rather than negotiate with the teaching staff in the tertiary institutions in the state, it illegally proscribed and confiscated the assets of the affected unions. These actions are also violations of section 40 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, which was equivocal that “all persons shall not only be free to assemble and associate, but in particular, shall freely form or belong to trade unions and other associations for the protection of their interests”.