By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi
The Federal Government has threatened to invoke Section 43 of the Trade Disputes Act, CAP. T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004, against striking members of the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU).
The unions embarked on a nationwide five-day warning strike, yesterday.
But, the federal government, through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has said the striking workers will receive no pay for the duration of the warning strike.
Besides, Ngige said there is nothing called ‘warning strike’ and that a strike is a strike, according to the National Industrial Relations System (NIRS).
On a conciliatory note, the minister assured the striking workers that the federal government is ready and willing to fully dialogue with members of the trade unions, operating under the umbrella of Joint Action Committee (JAC) and added that government has opened a channel of communication with stakeholders.
“On Monday, January, 16, 2017, I convened a meeting of all stakeholders in the dispute, for us to ventilate all issues and reach amicable settlement.
“Unfortunately, the trade unions requested for a different date, and the meeting has now been re-scheduled for Wednesday, January 18, 2017.
“The federal government, therefore, expects the trade unions to suspend the strike before the re-scheduled meeting, to make way for discussions.
“It is important for trade unions to embrace social dialogue in the pursuit and attainment of the economic and social interests of their members anchored on equity and natural justice.
“I thought it necessary to remind the unions that there is nothing like a ‘warning strike’ in our NIRS– a strike is a strike and is subject to all the rules governing strike.
“Accordingly, the provisions of section 43 of the Trade Disputes Act, CAP. T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004, will apply, regarding the law of ‘no work no pay’ by workers/employees notwithstanding any other circumstances in any section of the Act,” said Ngige.
Ngige also appealed to the trade unions to embrace dialogue, saying the federal government was committed to peaceful resolution of what the unions termed ‘Full Implementation of 2009 FGN/Non-Teaching Staff Union’s Agreement.”
Regardless, non-academic staff of the Lagos State University (LASU) have complied with the five-day warning strike.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Chairman of SSANU-LASU chapter, Saheed Oseni, told newsmen that the three unions in the university complied with the strike in line with the directive of their national body.
Oseni said all administrative activities in the institution were grounded as non-academic staff fully complied. He said a monitoring team ensured staff fully complied with the action.
Oseni urged government to “do the needful and attend to the issues raised by the unions’ national leaders before the warning strike elapsed.
“But, we will await further directives from our leaders on the next line of action if the government does otherwise, as failure to do the needful, will be unacceptable to the unions,’’ he said.
NASU-LASU Chairman, Mr. Albert Agosu, also confirmed that the union members commenced strike as directed.
Agosu said NASU-LASU had earlier sent a letter to its management to inform it of the action and also summoned a congress to intimate its members.
“Henceforth, for the five days declared, the strike will be total as directed,’’ he said.
The JAC, in a statement, said the warning strike became effective on January 16, due the inability of the federal government to implement the 2009 agreements with the unions.
It said a joint letter for the warning strike by Mr. Samson Ugwoke, SSANU president, Mr. Sani Suleiman, NAAT president and Chris Ani, NASU president was sent to the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu.
The unionists added that Ngige was also copied the as well as the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC)and President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba.