Organised labour appears bent on proceeding with its planned strike next week despite an ex-parte order yesterday by the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) restraining it from stopping working across the country.
The three labour centres:Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress of Nigeria ( TUC) and the United Labour Congress ( ULC)-insisted at a meeting of their joint central working committee in Lagos that there is no going back on the Nov. 6 proposed strike over non-implementation of N30,000 minimum wage.
Justice Sanusi Kado, in a ruling against the NLC and TLC), restrained them from proceeding with their planned strike, pending the determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunctions filed by the Federal Government and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
Justice Kado equally restrained the Incorporated Trustees of the Nigerian Governors Forum (listed as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants) from acting in ways capable of adversely affecting the workers.
The judge said he was moved to granting the ex-parte application argued by the Solicitor General of the Federation (SGF), Dayo Apata, because of the likely devastating effect of the strike on the country, its economy and the people.
The ruling was on an ex-parte application filed on November 1 this year by the Federal Government and the AGF. Respondents in the application are the NLC, TUC and Incorporated Trustees of the Governors Forum. The suit is marked: NICN/ABJ/287/2018.
Apata had, while arguing the application, noted that negotiations were still ongoing among stakeholders, including representatives of workers and employers, with a view to reaching amicable resolution of the disagreement over labour’s call for a new minimum wage regime.
He drew the court’s attention to the negative impact of such a national strike, being planned by labour, on the nation’s economy and its people.
Apata noted that the country has just come out of recession and could be returned to that state if members of the labour unions were allowed to carry through their threat to shut down of the country.
In their supporting affidavit, the applicants, stated that “negotiations between the government and the organised labour on a new minimum wage was still ongoing and not concluded.
“Further deliberations are needed to arrive at the desired consensus figure that will be generally acceptable as the new national minimum wage.
“The 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory are major employers of labour and need to be carried along in arriving at a consensus national minimum wage.
“The 1st and 2nd respondents have failed to issue appropriate notices or complied with extant legal provisions for the increment of minimum wage before announcing their planned strike.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria has no issue or disagreement with the 1st and 2nd respondents concerning the welfare or rights or condition of service with the different industrial unions affiliated with the 1st and 2nd respondents to warrant their threats to proceed on strike from 6th November 2018 and ground the country.
“If this ex-parte order is not granted on or before the 5th day of November 2018 the 1st and 2nd respondents (NLC and TUC) will embark on the strike already planned to commence on 6th November 2018 which will occasion great loss to the nation and further harm the economy.”
In his ruling, Justice Kado said he was convinced from the applicants’ arguments and exhibits presented that the impact of the planned strike would be too devastating on the economy and may plunge the country back into economic recession.
The judge said it was for the overriding interest of the public to grant the application.
“Having carefully appraised the facts and the circumstances that led to the institution of this action, this court has the duty to weigh the balance of convenience and see where it is suited.
“It is also the duty of this court to weigh the effect of the actions of the actors involved in the dispute so as to make sure that the interests of the general public are protected.
“opinion of all that I have been saying above, it is the overall interest of justice and stability of the society to grant the order of interim injunction against the 1st and 2nd defendants, their members, privies, agents, proxies, workmen, or servants from embarking on or taking part in the planned strike or industrial action scheduled to commence on November 6, 2018, in whatever form pending the hearing or determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction which is pending before the court.
“It is also necessary to grant an order of interim injunction restraining the 1st and 2nd defendants, their members, privies, agents, proxies, employees, workmen, or servants from engaging or taking part in any conduct or act in contemplation or furtherance of the strike or industrial action scheduled to commence on November 6, 2018, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.
“The grant of the interim injunction is due to the urgency of the application and the desire to prevent economic loss to both public and private institutions and also to protect the fundamental rights of the general public.
“The 3rd defendant, being one of the major stakeholders in the labour industry, should also not do anything that will, in any way, adversely affect the interest of their workforce, pending the hearing and determination of this suit.
“This case is adjourned to November 8, 2018 for the hearing of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction. All the parties concerned should be immediately served with this order of court,” Justice Kado said.
Organised labour insists on justice
However, a few hours after the court order, NLC,TUC and ULC leaders emerged from a meeting in Lagos to say they will go ahead with the strike.
Mr Ayuba Wabba, the NLC President, who read the communique of the meeting advised affiliate members of the three centres to commence preparation to ensure the strike was effective.
Members, he said, should be steadfast and dedicated to achieve their objective as workers would never receive improved welfare except through struggle.
He also said that the ‘no work no pay’ rule by the government is wrong as it negates the labour law and international convention to which Nigeria was a signatory.
Also speaking, Mr Joe Ajaero, ULC President, vowed that labour would not hesitate to stop the strike if the government fulfilled its N30,000 minimum wage demand.
Ajaero said that labour would continue to meet and negotiate with the government until midnight of the expiration of the strike.
He said that the labour body had not received any court injunction to stop the strike contrary to any report.
His words: “We are not aware of any court injunction. We will not discuss it because it is speculative. We advise that the minimum wage committee be allowed to submit its report,” Ajaero said
For his part, TUC president, Mr Bobboi Kaigama, said the door of organised labour remained open for discussion and advised that the report reached by the committee be submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige, said yesterday that conciliation on the national minimum wage will continue tomorrow regardless of the court injunction restraining organised labour from embarking on strike.
The National Industrial Court earlier yesterday ordered the organised labour to stay action on its proposed strike scheduled for Nov. 6
The minister in a statement said that the conciliation meeting involving organised Labour, the organised private sector and government scheduled for Sunday remains unchanged.
“The conciliation meeting involving the Organised Labour, the Organised Private Sector and Government scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 4 at the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation by 6 p.m. is still on course and will hold,” he said.
Ngige said that this will be followed by another meeting of the National Tripartite Minimum Wage Committee meeting on Monday, Nov. 5 at the same venue.
The minister appealed to all tripartite members to attend the meetings in the interest of the nation and finding a solution to the minimum wage impasse.