The Federal Government has appealed to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to rescind its opposition to the registration of two new academic unions in the Nigerian public university system.
Sen. Chris Ngige, Ministerof Labour and Employment, made the call in a statement signed by Mr Olajide Oshundun, Head, Press and Public Relations, in the ministry on Tuesday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the new unions are the Congress for Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) and the Nigeria Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA).
NAN reports that CONUA and NAMDA received letters of recognition recently by the ministry in Abuja.
However, in a letter to Ngige, the President of NLC, Mr Ayuba Wabba, demanded for the withdrawal of the letters issued to the unions, is on the grounds that their registration contravened the laws guiding trade unionism.
Ngige, in his reply, on Oct, 12, had appealed to NLC to allow the new unions to exist in the spirit of Freedom of Association.
The minister insisted that the Trade Dispute Act 2004 gives him the sole power to register new trade unions, either by registering a new union or regrouping existing ones.
He reiterated that the new unions were offshoots or by-products of regrouping and their applications were considered by two committees of his ministry.
He said that this was with the Registrar of Trade Unions participating when the first recommendation for approval was given in 2019, and again in 2022. He also said that CONUA and NAMDA were regrouped from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), for efficiency and effectiveness in the system.
The minister added that ,more importantly, to protect these groups of university teachers whose worldview differs from the restive parent union.
“Comrade President, do not unnecessarily oppose the registration of these new academic unions.
“Because with ASUU, they are all like seeds on the academic soil of Nigeria and which will grow into big trees we don’t know, but the one which her trees are not bearing good fruits, we already know.
“So, as an uncle of the unions, oppose none in the spirit of Freedom of Association, ’’he said.
He said that it should be noted that Section 3 (2) of the Trade Dispute Act, CAP T14 gives the Minister of Labour and Employment, the sole power to register new trade unions, either by registering new trade union or regrouping existing ones.
He added that the matter was a subject of litigation in the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) in most recent case which the President of the NLC failed to mention in his narration of court cases, “The case of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) and the regrouped Federal Parastatals and Private Sector Pensioners Association of Nigeria (FEPPAN) from NUP where the Law on Regrouping of Trade Unions was extensively explored and ruled upon.
“Unlike the cases cited by the President of the NLC to misinform the general public and unfortunately lead astray his affiliate Trade Union – ASUU,’’he said.
Ngige recalled that the NICN in a Suit no.
2192019, buttressed its earlier ruling on the matter and which had stated inter alia that the power to register trade unions resides with the Minister of Labour and Employment.
He noted that the last segment of Section 3(2) does not refer to the regrouping of existing trade unions, hence, the differentiation within the section between registering a new trade union and regrouping existing ones.
According him, we note your reference to Section 5 of the same Act, which deals with the “Procedure on receipt of application for registration” of a Trade Union.
“Section 5(4) in Particular states that the Registrar shall not register a trade union if it appears to him that any existing trade union is sufficiently representative of the interests of the class of workers concerned-CONUA members were ostracised and de-unionised by ASUU.
“Do we as the “Competent Authority” on Labour matters, including trade union services, pay homage to ASUU and acquiesce to leaving a large segment of lecturers and academia un-unionised, without protection, without a voice, and without a right at work.
`Are these workers not covered by the same ILO Conventions nos.
87 & 97?
” On NAMDA, Ngige said that they are medical doctors lecturing in the universities were against the incessant prolonged and illegal strikes by ASUU.
“They said the strike had disrupted medical training and caused consequential damages to the educational system and by implication, the quantity and quality of future medical doctors and dentists in Nigeria.
“They have been teaching and some have graduated their students since the 8-month old strike by ASUU which commenced on Feb 14 2022. Universities of Maidugri, Bauchi and Sokoto medical teachers are indeed patriots.
“Moreover, their peculiar needs are quite different from the rest of ASUU members and they are often left out on welfare and career progression in the universities – the core functions of a registered trade union,’’he said.
Ngige therefore, said the NLC President to desist from using his position to deceive the general public by misguiding them with mal-citations of Labour Authorities.
He added that, if ASUU feels aggrieved, they could approach the Courts for Judicial remedy as law abiding citizens just like the Federal Government through Federal Ministry of Labour & Employment.
“That is by virtue of the powers conferred by Section 17 of the TDA, transmitted the trade dispute to the NICN for adjudication, due to refusal of the union to comply with the provisions of Section 18 of the TDA, conciliation having failed,’’he said.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) says it is waiting for its lawyers for professional advice, following the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) order restraining it from continuing with strike.
The President of the Union, Mr Emmanuel Osodeke, disclosed this in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Wednesday.
The union had embarked on the industrial action to press home improved academic environment and welfare of members.
Some of the lecturers demands are funding of the Revitalisation of Public Universities, Earned Academic Allowances, University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) and promotion arrears.
Others are the renegotiation of the 2009 ASUU-FG Agreement and the inconsistency in Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System.
The strike has entered its seventh month the Federal Government instituted a suit before the court to halt it to enable students resume.
This followed the failure of government and the union to reach workable agreements.
However, students through the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) have embarked on protests by blocking entrance to the International Airport Lagos and have threatened to block other major roads, if the demands were not met by government.
The NICN granted the order pending the determination of the substantive suit before the court, at the instance of the Minister of Labour and Employment, pursuant to his powers, as provided in Section 17 of the Trade Dispute Act, 2004, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
Ruling on the application brought by the Federal Government, the , Justice Polycarp Hamman held that since the issues in dispute have been referred to the court, ordered ASUU (the defendants) not to take part in any further strike, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
According to Hamman, the argument of Femi Falana SAN, the counsel to the defendants that the act of the applicants had been concluded is of no moment and flies in the face of Exhibit 2 dated Aug. 29, 2022. Attached to the affidavit in support of the application where the defendants communicated to the Minister of Labour and Employment, their decision to rollover the strike to a comprehensive indefinite and total strike, beginning from 12.01 am on Aug. 29, 2022. Hamman noted that as the time of reading his ruling on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022, the strike action embarked upon by the defendants on Feb. 14, 2022, had not ended.
He maintained that workers cannot go on strike when relevant sections of the TDA have been complied with by the Minister of Labour in conciliating a labour dispute.
He praised the minister for acting in national interest by referring the matter to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
While noting that the balance of convenience is crucial to determining an application for interlocutory injunction, Hamman stated that the balance of convenience tilts in favour of the claimants who own the universities and taken into consideration the interest of the students, whose parents cannot afford private universities in Nigeria or abroad.
He insisted that the strike inflicted irreparable damage to public university education in the country, lamenting that university students have been out of school for eight months in a country where age is considered for employment and enrollment into the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Nigerian Army, Air Force, Navy and and paramilitary organisations.
Justice Hamman dismissed the claim by the defendants counsel that the strike was prompted by serial breach of agreement by the Federal Government, saying since the matter has been referred to the Industrial Court by the Minister of Labour and Employment, the defendants are mandated by the law not to engage in any further strike, pending the determination of the substantive matter.
He said: “Section 18 Subsection 1 of the TDA, 2004, connotes an obligation, which is mandatory and leaves no room for discretion.
“Section 18 (2) criminalises any contravention of 18(1) and imposes the fine of N100 or imprisonment for six months for an individual and N1000 for a corporate body.
“In this circumstance and on the strength of Section 254.6.(1) b of the constitution, Section 18(1) e of the TDA, Section 7(1) e, 16 and 19 b of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria Act 2006, I hold that this application is meritorious and same is hereby granted.
” Justice Hamman further held that the rephrase by Falana that the court should grant accelerated hearing of the application in place of injunctive relief “is of no moment”, going by the rules of the court.
He maintained that the applicants met the requirements for granting of an injunction, contrary fo the averments of Falana SAN.
Reacting inside the courtroom, lead counsel to the Federal Government, James U.
K. Igwe SAN, said: “I thank his Lordship for the ruling, rendered with unparalleled erudition, scholarly analysis and research and which took into cognisance of education as being basic to education in Nigeria.
The Federal Government says it will adjust workers salaries to meet the current realities in the economy of the country.
Sen. Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment said this at the public presentation of the NLC of 40 publication titled, “Contemporary History of Working Class Struggles’’ on Monday in Abuja.
Ngige said that the Federal Government was very much aware that the N30,000 National Minimum Wage had depreciated.
“Yes the inflation has increased worldwide and it is not confined to Nigeria, that is why in many jurisdiction, it is an adjustment of wages right now.
“We as the Nigerian government, we shall adjust in confirmative with what is happening in wages.
“More importantly, the 2019 National Minimum Wage Act, right now has a clause for the review, which we started then, I do not know whether it is due next year or 2024. “But before then, the adjustment of wages will reflect what is happening in the economy,just as government has started the adjustment with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), ‘’he said.
The minister also explained that the Federal Government did not take ASUU to court over the prolonged strike of the union as some people claimed.
Ngige said he would have failed in his duties if he did not refer the matter to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) after seven months of protracted discussions and negotiations with the union, which failed.
He recalled that ASUU was at the stage of Collective Bargaining(CBA) negotiation with their employers, the Federal Ministry of Education when they embarked on strike.
He regretted that the ASUU leadership did not even understand the import of CBA negotiation because they lacked the nutrients of labour unionism.
According to him, we have to counsel our brothers on negotiation.
No negotiation is forced.
You cannot say it is either you give me 200 per cent or I will continue my strike.
“There are laws guiding strike.
There are ILO principles on right to strike.
Nobody can take it away.
”But, there are things that follow it when you embark on strike as a worker and they are enshrined in the laws of our land.
“It is written in Trade Dispute Act. The ILO principles of strike talks about the right of a worker to withdraw services.
There is also right to picket.
These are things that are done.
”Nigeria is respected in ILO.
Some people said Federal Government took ASUU to court.
No. I referred the matter after seven months of protracted discussions and negotiations that failed, ’’he said.
Ngige recalled that he conciliated the dispute twice, first on Feb. 22, one week after the commencement of the strike and some agreements were reached, and he brought everybody back on March 1 for another conciliation.
He added that the only thing left was going back to the Federal Ministry of Education for the renegotiation of the 2013 agreement.
“Some people are saying 2009 agreement.
The 2009 agreement has been renegotiated in 20132014 with the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
It is an anathema to use 2009 agreement.
“What is left is the renegotiation of their conditions of service, which is their right.
It should be done but they are negotiating it under the principle of offer and acceptance and it broke down irretrievably there at the Federal Ministry of Education.
“That kick-started Section 17 of the Trade Dispute Act whereby the Minister of Labour and Employment, whoever it is, if you don’t transmit according to the dictates of Section 17, TDA, 2004, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
“This means you would have failed in your function.
Therefore, I had to transmit, ’’he said.
Ngige, however, said the transmission did not mean that the matter could not be settled out of court.
He said either of the parties involved; the Federal Ministry of Education and ASUU could approach the NICN for out of court settlement.
He maintained that Nigeria must be guided by laws and nobody should use the dispute to harass anybody.
“The pro-chancellors said they want to do counter offer.
I told them to do it as quickly as possible.
Those are ingredients of labour relations.
“It is not enough if you misinform your membership.
That should be a disservice.
We should read through things as it is and interpret same way.
If I leave them in education, they will stay there two years,’’Ngige said.
On the 40 years of NLC, Ngige said: “A fool at 40 is a fool forever.
A wiseman at 40 is a wise man forever.
NLC is a wise man forever.
NAN) The National Industrial Court is to deliver ruling in an application filled by the Federal Government’s application seeking the order of court to direct the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to call off its ongoing strike.
Justice Polycarp Hamman adjourned the matter after listening to the arguments of the counsel on behalf of the parties.
U.K Igwe, SAN, counsel to FG in his submission had informed the court that the application for the injunction was dated Sept. 12 and filed same date.
He added that the application was brought in pursuant to the rules of the NICN 2017 proceeding.
Igwe further stated that it was predicated on 11 ground, supported by 21 paragraph affidavit deposed to Mr Okechukwu Wampa, a Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Labour and Employment , attached with three exhibits and an undertaking as to damages deposed to by Wampa.
He also urged the court to grant the prayer sought and proceeded to adopt in its entirety and totality the written address, adding that the claimants had met all the requirements to enable the court grant the injunction He cited that claimant’s action was not apprehensive and regarding damages, he said the lost time of seven months of the strike could not be regained.
He concluded by saying that going by the provision of section 18 (1) (e) of the Trade Disputes Act 2004, that a worker should not embark on strike when a matter is already before the court, urged the court to grant the injunction.
Mr Femi Falana SAN, counsel to the defendant stated that he had before the court a nine paragraph counter-affidavit filed on Sept. 16 deposed to by the president of ASUU He further submitted that attached to the affidavit was eight exhibits accompanied by a written address and proceeded to adopt same as their argument in opposition to the interlocutory injunction.
Falana in addition argued that the minister lacked the power to order the court in the referral to direct ASUU to call off its strike.
He averred further that once a referral was before a court, no party could go outside of it.
Falana in his argument also pointed out that the claimants did not follow due process in part 1 of TDA 2004 that stipulated that only an individual has the right to approach the court as a trade union will first need to go to Industrial Abitration Panel ( IAP), before coming to the court.
He said union can only approach the NICN to appeal the decision of IAP Falana also said that the letter that accompanied the referral had the name of the Attorney-Ggeneral as a party in the suit, but that however, the application filed before the court was without the name.
He also said that the referral asking for accelerated hearing was not necessary as there was not urgency in the matter as the strike had lasted for seven months He also submitted that the balance of convenience was not on the side of the claimants and that the conducts of the claimants in the prayer for the court to interpret the 2009 Agreement should be discountenanced.
He finally urged the court to dismiss the application or direct parties to the IAP.
Igwe in response submitted that the minister did not order the court and that the letter attached to the referral was not a legal document as the notice if referral superceded the letter The News Agency of Nigeria ( NAN) reports that earlier the court had ruled in favour of the claimants when Falana had argued that the defendant’s preliminary objection on jurisdiction of the court should be taken before any other application However, Igwe had argued that the court in its decision on Sept.16 slated Monday for hearing.
Igwe in addition stated that the defendant’s objection will not be prejudiced as it can be adopted and taken with the substantive at a later date.
He also argued that the preliminary objection was not ripe for hearing as it was just served on him about 14 minutes before the proceeding was f the day.
The court had upheld Igwe’s argument and directed counsel to proceed with the interlocutory injunction’ application and the counter-affidavit to same.
NAN also reports that the Minister of Labour and Employment on behalf of the Federal Government had filed the matter before the court by way of referral to resolve the issue of the ongoing strike by ASUU nanews.
The Federal Government says it will meet with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) for adjudication on Monday over prolong strike.
Dr Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, said this on Sunday in Abuja in a letter addressed to the Registrar of NICN, dated Sept. 8. Ngige said this in a statement signed by Olajide Oshundun, Head, Press and Public Relations, in the ministry and made available to newsmen.
He said the referral instrument had become necessary following the failure of dialogue between the union and the Federal Ministry of Education.
He added that the matter is billed for mention by 9 a.
m on Sept. 12. ”The Federal Government has asked the NICN to inquire into the legality or otherwise of the ongoing prolonged strike by ASUU leadership and members that had continued even after apprehension.
“It asked the court to interpret in its entirety the provisions of Section 18 LFN 2004, especially as it applies to the cessation of strike once a trade dispute is apprehended by the Minister of Labour and Employment and conciliation is ongoing,” he said.
He also said that the NICN are to interpret the provisions of Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, Cap T8. LFN 2004, titled “Special Provision with Respect to payment of wages during strikes and lock-outs”.
Ngige said this ”specifically dealing with the rights of during the period of any strike or lock-out.
”Can ASUU or any other union that embarked on strike be asking to be paid salaries even with clear provisions of the law.
“Determine whether ASUU members are entitled to emoluments or ‘strike pay’ during their period of strike, which commenced on Feb. 14. ”Moreso, in view of our national law as provided in Section 43 of the TDA and the International Labour Principles on the right to strike as well as the decisions of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association on the subject,” he said.
He added that NICN should determine whether ASUU had the right to embark on strike over disputes as is the case in this instance by compelling the Federal Government to employ its own University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) in the payment of the wages of its members as against the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
According to him, as this is universally used by the Federal Government in the nation for payment of wages of all her employees in the Federal Government Public Service of which university workers, including ASUU members, are part of.
”Or even where the government via NITDA subjected ASUU and their counterpart, Universities Peculiar Personnel Payroll Systems (UPPPS) software to integrity test (vulnerability and stress test) and they failed,” he said.
Ngigi also said the federal government further asked the court to determine the extent of fulfillment of ASUU’s demands since the 2020 Memorandum of Action (MOA) that the union signed with government.
The minister said their demands include the funding for revitalisation of public universities as per 2009 agreement, Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) payments, state universities proliferation and constitution of visitation panels, and release of white paper on the report of the visitation panels.
He noted that others are the reconstitution of the government renegotiation team for renegotiation of 2009 agreement, which was renegotiated 20132014, due for renegotiation 20182019, and the migration of ASUU members from IPPIS to its own UTAS, which is currently on test at NITDA.
”Consequently, the Federal Government requested for an order of the Court for ASUU members to resume work in their various universities while the issues in dispute are being addressed by the NICN in consonance with the provisions of Section 18 (I) (b) of the TDA Cap T8. LFN 2004,” he said.