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Kaduna, NLC faceoff: FG insist principles of redundancy must apply in Kaduna

*as govt, NLC sign MoU

*ITUC writes Kaduna govt, threatens to drag El-Rufai to ILO

Ukpono Ukpong, Abuja

Following the three days industrial action embarked upon by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Federal government has said that the principle of redundancy as stated in section 20 of Labour Act, Cap L 1 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) must apply in Kaduna State.

This was contained in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by both parties at a meeting convened by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige on behalf of the Federal Government.

This is just as the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has condemned what they described as state-sponsored violence against protesting workers in Kaduna State.

After an exhaustive deliberation of all the issues above at the meeting, where the officials of Kaduna State Government debunked all the five issues listed and ascribed them to political opponents of the state government, they also said they were only trying to implement the Kaduna State Government Public Service Revitalization and Renewal Programme approved by the State Executive Council since 2016.

The NLC also explained their position that they got into the dispute following reports by their Kaduna State affiliate Unions and Negotiating Councils.

“The meeting agreed that all the listed issues fall within the ambit of redundancy therefore, it was resolved that the principle of redundancy as stated in section 20 of Labour Act, Cap L 1 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) should apply.

“The meeting also recognized that the current impasse was caused by communication gap between the State Government and NLC occasioned by both the local chapter and even the Kaduna State Government officials.

“In view of the foregoing, the meeting resolved: to constitute a ten (10) man Bi-partite Committee comprising six (6) representatives of State Government and three (3) officials of the NLC to engage further with the objective of reverting with a work plan on how to integrate the provision of section 20 of the Labour Act CAP L1 LFN 2004 to resolve the impasse between the State Government and the NLC.

“The meeting also resolved that the Committee should have as Chairman, the Head of Service of the Kaduna State Government and assisted by a Deputy National President of the NLC.

The Committee is expected to revert with the work plan for peaceful resolution of all issues in contention to the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment by Tuesday, May 25.

“The work plan is to itemize the structure and sub-structure in the State and Local Government of their activities, time of commencement and envisaged final tenure of the Committee or make recommendations if in its wisdom it thinks the Committee should be a Permanent Standing Committee.”

In conclusion, it was agreed that there shall be no further industrial action on these issues and no worker shall be victimised on account of his or her participation in the industrial action.

In his opening remarks, the Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Jafaru Sani who led the Kaduna State delegation jointly with the State Head of Service, Bariatu Mohammed said that the national minimum wage is been implemented in the State along with public service reform policies.

He said over 7,000 teachers have been recruited to fill in vacancies, noting that the public service consumes N4 out of every N5 received from revenue sources.

He said the NLC strike and protest came as a rude shock to the State Government and condemns what he described as a violation of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, by NLC members who obstructed economic activities in the State.

In his remarks, the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba said the Labour movement is committed to social dialogue, collective bargaining arrangement and tripartism.

Wabba said redundancy was declared in Kaduna State in the implementation of a right-sizing policy without engaging labour and without payment of due entitlements to the disengaged workers.

He added that before any sack is contemplated the government must first engage the workers’ unions.

Wabba said the strike was a result of last resort since letters sent to the State Government had not received responses.

Meanwhile the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has condemned what they described as state-sponsored violence against protesting workers in Kaduna State.

This was contained in a letter addressed to Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, and signed by the ITUC General Secretary, Sharon Burrow.

While noting that Nigeria is a party to the ILO Convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948 (NO. 87) and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining 1949 (No. 98), she said that El-Rufai’s boast of planning to arrest ITUC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, who is also the NLC President for what he called “economic sabotage”, only showed his total ignorance.

She explained that the two conventions principles prohibit government from interfering in workers’ activities, which include strikes and protest actions.

“I am writing on behalf of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) representing 200 million workers in 163 countries, including Nigeria to condemn the attack on workers and trade union leaders that occurred during a protest action on May 18, following a series of unfair labour practices perpetrated by your state government.

“The ITUC is reliably informed that on 17 May 2021, workers in Kaduna State, led by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) embarked on a peaceful protest action following the refusal by your government to address their grievances, which include unlawful dismissal, non-payment of redundancy packages and acts of anti-union discrimination.

“We are informed that you hired hooligans to violently disrupt the protest action on 18 May 2021. The Kaduna police only intervened when the hooligans were overpowered by the protestors.

“You are also quoted in the media boasting of planning to arrest our president, Mr Ayuba Wabba, who is also the NLC President for what you call “economic sabotage”. This showed total ignorance on your part of the purpose of protest action and your intention to criminalise a peaceful protest action is hereby condemned.

“Mr Governor, Nigeria is a party to the ILO Convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948 (NO. 87) and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining 1949 (No. 98).

“The two conventions principles prohibit your government from interfering in workers’ activities. which include strikes and protest actions. Nigeria is also a party to the Tripartite (International Labour Standards) Convention 1976 (No-144). which requires tripartite consultations between government workers and employers.

“We demand that your government respect the principles of freedom of association and engage in social dialogue with trade unions to fine an amicable solution in order to address the challenges in this respect and that It refrain from instigating violence against our members during this eve of the International Labour Conference 2021.

“We will continue to monitor the developments in this matter and hope to receive your favourable reply.”

Similarly, the African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) has expressed shock and sadness over the violence unleashed on peaceful protesters in Kaduna State where organised labour had declared a five day warning strike in protest over alleged sacking of over seven thousand workers in the state’s civil service.

A statement signed by Kwasi Adu-Amankwah, General Secretary ITUC-Africa stated that the attack on peaceful protesters is a dangerous way of addressing industrial dispute.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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