The attention of the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige has been drawn to media publications in which Mr. Femi Falana, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) human right activist and lawyer, yesterday described as illegal, the enforcement of Sec. 43.1 of the Trade Dispute Act 2004 on the No Work No Pay provision inbuilt in that portion of the Act and asking the Federal Government of Nigeria to immediately withdraw what he termed an “illegal order” emanating therefrom.
This according to him is in violation of the various judgments of the Supreme Court. The lawyer went further to justify his position by quoting a plethora of Supreme Court judgments. For a start, the Minister is in disbelief as to whether the learned lawyer was correctly quoted. However, reading through the news item, especially his direct reference to the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) wherein he urged the lectures to disobey that aspect of the law, insisting also that ASUU complied with 31(6) of the Trade dispute Act 2005 as amended in declaring its strike, the Ministry is constrained to make the following corrections to avoid further misinformation of the general public.
First is that Nigeria is a member of the International Labour Organization( ILO ) a United Nations specialized agency dealing with labour issues and whose aim is to promote the right at work for employees and employers, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues.
It is important to state that Nigeria has also ratified and domesticated about 8 core conventions of the ILO out of which two are most related in the instant dispute between ASUU and the Federal Government of Nigeria. These are the rights to freedom of association and organization as well as the right to Collective Bargaining. Based on these conventions, the ILO recognizes the rights of the workers to strike. However, it also recognizes the reciprocal rights of employers to withdraw wages during strike. This is the anchor for No Work, No Pay.
This has also necessitated the Nigerian Parliament (National Assembly) to legislate this into a law through the provision in section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004. Until this section of the law is expunged or repealed through legislative process by the National Assembly, it remains not just applicable but also a point of law for compliance by all citizens of Nigeria. To make it clearer, the ILO had ruled that “salary deductions for days of strike give rise to no objection from the point of view of freedom of association principle. Furthermore more, the worker-employer relationship is built on the concept that the worker agrees to provide his labour /service/skill or any other efforts to the employer in return for which the employer agrees to compensate the employee with money, benefits, compensation and any other considerations.”
The law of No Work No Pay is, therefore, a fundamental axiom in Labour and Industrial Relations all over the world. Accordingly, trade unions all over the world employ global best practices to stock up funds from check off dues to pay their members’ salaries during the time of strike. This has often occasioned brevity of strikes in most climes.
The ministry is constrained to go this length of detailed explanation to forestall incalculable harm this misinformation can cause to the national industrial relations system especially when a distinguished Senior Advocate of Nigeria of Falana’s standing is being quoted as asking workers to disobey the laws of the land. Trade Union leaders can afford to do so when playing to the gallery but not a man who belongs to the inner bar, whose members are supposed to be custodians and protectors of laws made by the parliament.
In this particular issue of Federal Government / ASUU negotiation, the Hon. Minister had earlier in the exercise of his powers sent back the conciliation to the Federal Ministry of Education as he noticed during the first meeting that both parties have not exhausted the internal conciliation mechanism. Knowing that ASUU and her members are on essential services as contained in the Trade Dispute Act, the Hon. Minister of Labour has therefore directed that the matter is re-apprehended back into his Ministry to avoid unnecessary meddlesomeness by external interlopers as well as to ensure speedy resolution of all issues to enable ASUU to call off the strike.
Hence, the Hon. Minister in the exercise of his powers in section 5 of the Trade Dispute Act has re-apprehended the dispute and invited all parties to a meeting. By this, all further discussions between the Ministry of Education and ASUU will now recommence at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
A meeting has been convened for Monday, December 10, 2018, at the Conference Room of the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment by 4 p.m. prompt. The Ministry will also further investigate the media report credited to Mr Falana to ascertain whether he actually quoted those Supreme Court judgments, knowing full well that they are tangential and that they neither anchor nor dwell on provisions of section 43 of Trade Dispute Act T8 ( LFN 2004) before it will take further necessary action.