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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

NLC strike is illegal- NECA

With less than 24 hours to the blast of the whistle from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), that workers across the country should down tools, the organised private sector (OPS) under the aegis of Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA) has described labour’s call as “illegal.”

NECA which meanwhile advised both the federal and state governments to honour their agreement with the labour union. urged labour to exercise restraints. It however, stressed the need for employers of labour to implement the N18, 000 National Minimum Wage Act President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law in March, this year, saying failure to do so, would be tantamount to breaking the law.

Describing the impending strike as “illegal,” NECA said both the NLC and the Trade Union of Nigeria (TUC) have not followed and exhausted the industrial dispute procedures as prescribed by the Labour Act, and are therefore, not the right bodies to negotiate workers’ wages or push for its implementation. It said the move of these two bodies amounts to usurping the roles and responsibilities of the Civil Service Union.

The association on Monday said the implementation of the Act, across board, as was agreed during the long drawn negation by all stakeholders, which included labour, the government and the private sector, becomes imperative as the nation’s fragile economy cannot afford the implications of the three-day warning strike action being threatened by the labour union.

It however cautioned labour against going ahead with the strike, in the light of the declarations of willingness by all employers, whether in the public and private sectors (including state governors) to comply with the new law.
“There is no longer any issue in dispute that could justify the intended strike by organised labour,” the OPS stated.

A three-day warning strike is scheduled to commence tomorrow and end Friday should the government fail to pay the minimum wage. The Federal Government had earlier indicated its intention to pay the N18, 000 only to workers between grade level 01 to grade level 06, a proposal labour vehemently kicked against.

Richard Uche and Olusegun Oshinowo, president and director general of NECA, respectively, who briefed the press in Lagos on Monday, described what might be lost to the impending strike as “colossal.” They warned that it was unnecessary to shut down the entire economy on an issue that concerns public sector workers who constitute just about 2 percent of the national workforce.

The association, which kicked against what it described as “descent to anarchy” which has been the case, especially since the past four years when strike actions have become the order of the day, noted that it had earlier warned the government against “this worrisome and unacceptable trend” because of its implications on the economy.

“We once again call on the Federal Government to set into motion, the machinery for the urgent reform of our industrial relations system without which the quest for our nation to achieve Vision 20:2020 will merely be a mirage,” it stated.

NECA, in the meantime, has urged private employers not to be jittery or fearful of the strike action. “They should direct their employees, through their internal communication channels, as a matter of necessity, to report for work in spite of the NLC, TUC’s strike. They should make it abundantly clear to their employees that failure to report for work would attract appropriate sanctions based on their terms and conditions of employment,” it said.

It also called on the government “to rise up to the occasion by mobilising the entire security machinery to ensure that movement of Nigerians is not in any way hindered by hoodlums and miscreants. On no account should the government allow organised labour to trample on the rights of the majority of Nigerians and workers who will want to pursue their legitimate means of livelihood,” it declared.

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