Following the ongoing industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities ASUU, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige has urged the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC should call ASUU to order to call off the strike.
Disclosing this on Monday during the 2022 edition of the National Labour Advisory Council in Lagos, Ngige reportedly probed that “What will be the relationship with workers organisations that are not properly registered as trade unions?
He noted, “The labour Act is there and it says the Minister can discuss with them. But they don’t fully conform with legal provisions, especially in terms of style of negotiation and conciliation. NLAC should therefore come to the aid of the country here.”
He maintained, “Even though the Trade Disputes Act permits the Minister to apprehend and deal with these workers that have not been registered as unions, you can also see that when dealing with them , you encounter problems because they do not fully understand the nuisances or obey the labour laws as it should be.”
He stated, “The university teachers are registered under the Academic Staff Union of Universities and are affiliated to the Nigerian Labour Congress but that affiliation is only in name . It is not indeed, because they don’t obey the Labour Act as it concerns conciliation.”
He posited, “For example, ASUU declared a month strike and called it warning strike. It did not notify their employer, the Ministry of Education, nor did they notify me, the Minister of labour that there is a breakdown in negotiation. I know that they had some discussions which were in limbo but I should be notified properly so that I can arrest the breakdown and bring it forward for properly conciliation .”
He added, “Now, I apprehended the dispute in consonance with the Labour Act. They came for conciliation, only for them to go back and continue the strike. This is illegal. The law is that once a dispute is apprehended, everybody returns to status quo ante. The law also says that if I arrest a dispute and the party or parties are not ready to conform, I should transfer the dispute within fourteen days to either the Industrial Arbitration Panel or to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in line with section 17 of the Trade Disputes Act . But I’m concerned that if do this suo motu, this will not solve the problem of getting our children back to school outright.”
The Minister however emphasized “So , I’m using this opportunity to plead with the NLC to which ASUU is affiliated, to call them to order, make them obey the law, to let them know what the Trade Disputes Act says and as university teachers who are even teaching industrial law, to abide by the law. They should call of that strike. That strike is not appropriately instituted. I have conciliated , and made sure the issues in disputes have been decisively been dealt with.”