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Following the threat by the United Labour CONGRESS, ULC, to go on a nationwide strike from September 15 , the federal government on Thursday declared the proposed strike illegal.
The strike notice was dated September 8 and is expected to lapse on September 15.
Some of the issues highlighted by the ULC, a coalition of various workers’ unions, include: the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment should set up a task force immediately to carry out factory inspection; Government should review the privatisation of Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN; and the Army and Police should withdraw their officers from different work places where they are currently stationed as they intimidate and harass workers in such establishment.
The union, a breakaway from the NLC, also demanded the immediate release of its “Registration Certificate.”
The ULC is headed by Joe Ajaero, General Secretary of National union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, and Igwe Achese, President of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG.
Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, while addressing journalists on Thursday night said government “will not fold her hands and allow group of people take law into their hands by brazenly threatening to commit economic sabotage by shutting down essential services in the oil and gas, power and aviation sectors as threatened by the promoters of the union.”
He said the ministry’s reaction is to remind the promoters of the ULC that they are yet to be recognised by the federation of trade unions, hence cannot speak on behalf of any trade union.
“The Trade Unions Act, CAP T14, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004, is explicitly clear on how a group of Trade Unions can coalesce to form a Federation of Trade Unions. Section 35(1)(b) states inter alia “A Federation of Trade Unions may be registered by the Registrar if … it is made up of 12 or more Trade Unions none of which SHALL have been a member of another registered Federation of Trade Unions.”
He said the promoters of ULC should fulfill this requirement to qualify to be registered.
“To call out workers on essential services for a national strike without any major trade dispute with their direct employers will be tantamount to blatant violation of our extant labour laws and international labour standards.”
He said the Nigeria Labour Congress has been factionalised after her elections in 2015 and the government through the Ministry of Labour and Employment had been making efforts to resolve the controversies that arose from the disputed elections.
“This to Government is democracy in the practice of Trade Unionism in Nigeria,” he said.
“Members of the Trade Unions who are sympathetic to the ULC mentioned in the press statement are advised to go about their duties in the interest of a peaceful industrial relations environment and for the good of our national economy,” the minister concluded.