FG’s ongoing reforms will bring prosperity to Nigeria — AGF

AGF to Organised Labour: Proposed strike, premature, illegal

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The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) on Sunday, said the call for industrial action by organised labour “is premature, ineffectual and illegal”.

Fagbemi insisted that the proposed strike action by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) is also at variance with the order of the National Industrial Court and ongoing mediatory settlement efforts over issues connected with the subject matter of the order.

The AGF was reacting to a statement made on 31st May 2024, by the leadership of the NLC and TUC declaring an indefinite nation-wide industrial action from 3rd June 2024.

The AGF, in a letter titled, “Re: Proposed strike action by Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC)”, dated June, 1, 2024 and addressed to the National President of the trade unions, noted that this latest declaration of strike action by organized labour is premature at a time when the Federal Government and other stakeholders involved in the tripartite committee on determination of a new national minimum wage had not declared an end to negotiation.

“You are aware that the federal and state governments are not the only employers bound by a new national minimum wage.

“Hence, it is vital to balance the interest and capacity of all employers of labour in the country (inclusive of organized private sector) in order to determine a minimum wage for the generality of the working population” Fagbemi stated.

The Justice Minister drew the attention of organized labour to Sections 41(1) and 42(1) of the Trade Disputes Act 2004 (as amended), which requires both NLC and TUC to issue mandatory strike notices of a minimum of 15 days.

The AGF argued that at no time did either NLC or TUC declare a trade dispute with their employers, or issue any strike notice as required by law for such strike action to be legitimate and lawful.

“It is not in doubt that the fundamental importance of the 15-day notice is underscored by the fact that Sections 41 & 42(1) criminalize non-compliance with this requirement for a valid declaration of strike action”, Fagbemi said.

The AGF also called to question, the legality or legitimacy of the proposed strike action by the fact that both NLC and TUC failed to comply with the statutory condition precedents (dispute resolution procedures) provided for under Section 18(1)(a) of Trade Disputes Act 2004 (as amended) and submitted that, the proposed strike action is in breach of relevant conditions itemized under Section 31(6) of the Trade Unions Act (as amended).

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“I wish to further draw your attention to the fact that the conditions outlined by our national legislations for exercising the right to strike are in tandem with the International Labour Organization (ILO) principles concerning the right to strike.

“It is the position of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association that the obligation to give prior notice, obligation to have recourse to conciliation, mediation and (voluntary) arbitration procedures in industrial disputes, etc are prior prerequisites for declaring a strike”, the AGF said in the letter.

It was the contention of the AGF that the alleged issuance of an ultimatum to the government by Labour for the conclusion of negotiations before 31st May 2024, does not satisfy the requirement of issuing a categorical and unequivocal formal notice of strike action.

In addition, Fagbemi reminded the organized labour of the pendency of the interim injunctive order granted on 5th June 2023, in suit no: NICN/ABJ/158/2023; Federal Government of Nigerian & Anor V. Nigerian Labour Congress & Anor, which restrained both Nigerian Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress from embarking on any industrial action/or strike of any nature.

“This order has neither been stayed or set-aside. Therefore, it remains binding on the labour unions, Fagbemi said.

It would be recalled that, in the aftermath of the removal of fuel subsidy, both the government and labour consented to measures to ameliorate the adverse consequences there to, by executing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on October 2, 2023.

The MoU entails provisions for payment of wage award, setting up of the minimum wage committee, provision of CNG buses and conversion kits, tax incentives among others.

According to the MoU, Fagbemi said, both NLC and TUC committed to, ” henceforth abide by the dictates of social dialogue in all our future engagements”.

He said, while government would continue to adopt a conciliatory approach to resolving matters pertaining to workers and citizens’ welfare in the spirit of objective bargaining, he urged the labour leaders to kindly reconsider the strike action and return to the ongoing negotiation meetings which adjourned to a date to be communicated to parties.

“This will be a more civil and patriotic approach and will enable your congress pursue its cause within the ambit of the law and avoid foistering avoidable hardship on the generality of Nigerians, which the proposed industrial action is bound to cause”, the AGF stated in the letter, which is copied to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief of Staff to the President, Minister of Labour and Employment, National Security Adviser, Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the State Security Services.


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