The Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment Sen. Chris Ngige has urged Labour Unions to establish an inspectorate division that can work in collaboration with the Inspectorate Department of the Ministry to ensure the faithful implementation of the new Minimum Wage and guard against unfair labour practices, especially in the private sector.
The Minister gave the charge while receiving the executive members of the United Labour Congress (ULC) on a courtesy call on him today.
“Our new strategy is to encourage trade unions to create an inspectorate arm that will work hand in hand with our Inspectorate Department in all the states. They are to work together; go into factories, companies and industries and look at their books to know what salaries workers are earning. With that, we will be sure Nigerians are not underpaid and with that also, we shall ensure that the new Minimum Wage and its consequential adjustment are being implemented faithfully,” the Minister charged.
Responding to the union’s demand for the registration of the ULC as a Trade Centre, the Minister commended their patience and understanding, noting that the Ministry would continue to uphold the provisions of Section 40 of the Constitution on freedom of association including unionization but stressed that the registration of the ULC must be done within the confines of the law.
“We are not saying you won’t be registered. We want to register you within the confines of the law. Section 35 of the Trade Union Act is very clear on the requirements and process for the registration of new Labour Centre. Though I agree with you that some of the labour laws need amendment but until they are amended, they remain the extant law and all and sundry must obey it.”
“Am excited you said your number is now thirty-seven. The last time you made application, it was sixteen .It means you are growing from strength to strength and that the only thing you need to do now is to conform to that aspect of the law; section 35 of the Trade Union Act that requires you to have twelve brand new unions.”
Ngige maintained that the provisions of Sec. 35 of the Trade Union Act has ironically forced the ULC to think out of the box, forcing it to move into hitherto neglected areas of the informal sector to unionize workers, thereby helping to promote decent work among other benefits of unionism.
“I was excited for example when I heard you have unionized teachers in private schools. That’s novel because some of them suffer slave work and earn pittance.”
The Minister further assured that the registration of new unions was a responsibility which the Ministry would neither share with any other nor shy away from, emphasizing that new unions would continue to be registered much as the applicants meet the provisions of the law.
Promising the union that Federal Government has stepped up efforts towards safeguarding the Expatriate Quota, Ngige said a recent resolution of the Federal Executive Council was that any major contract would specify the accompanying number of jobs it has for Nigerians as well as for the expatriates . He added that the Executive Order No. 5 on Local Content was being vigorously pursued to protect job opportunities for Nigerians.
The Minister who commended the ULC for assisting the Federal Government weather the storm of industrial action in 2016, emphasized the place of social dialogue as the major mechanism for the settlement of disputes.
He further said the Federal Government would continue to respect the right of the unions in the democratic conduct of its internal affairs and urged that they also respect the sanctity of the constitutional right of government to make appointments.
In his remarks, The Hon. Minister of State, labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo SAN said unions coming together to form new labour centre was not a breach of the Law but must follow due process. According to him, the law requires twelve brand new unions in forming a new labour centre and not changing of nomenclature by the federating unions.
He contended that most of our laws especially labour laws were obsolete and needed review and requested the Union to send amendment bill to the National Assembly through the Ministry.
Earlier, the President of the ULC, Comrade Joe Ajaero called for the liberalization of labour movements in the country to make it easy to register new unions as well as form new labour centres, regretting the non-registration of the ULC after years of application.
He argued that the ULC was a child of circumstance formed to escape the suffocating disagreements in the Nigeria Labour Congress and urged the Minister to facilitate the registration of unions under it whose applications have been pending before him.