Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Did the labour struggle die with Adam Oshiomhole reign?

Ever since erstwhile Nigeria Labour Congress President Mr Adams Oshiomhole step aside after 8 years of two terms ends, one beginning to wonder whether the labour struggle must have ended with his reign. Everyone is aware the type of person Oshiomhole was, he is a no nonsense person so much that at any slightest trampling on the rights of workers, he will call his congress to start nationwide strike. We can all recalled the incessant strike at any slightest increase in petroleum products during the Obasanjo regime, it got to a stage that the government decided to democratise the union of Labour congress, the outcome of which a new Labour Act 2005 introduced new provisions in subsections (6), (7), (8) and (9) to section 31 which seek to make or to ensure that the process of calling out workers to embark on strike becomes an uphill task for the trade unions. the new Act apart from preventing general strike action on a nationwide basis by all members of the trade unions under one umbrella. It also signifies that gone are the days where all the different Federations of the trade union could come under one umbrella of the Nigeria Labour Congress to confront or negotiate with the government for the general welfare of workers and interest of the millions of masses of this country.

Subsection 6 of the Act provides:
“No person, trade union or employer shall take part in a strike or lock out or engage in any conduct in contemplation or furtherance of a strike or lock out unless:
(A) the person, trade union or employer is not engaged in the provision of essential services;
(B) The strike or lock out concerns a labour dispute that constitutes a dispute of right
(C) The strike or lock out concerns a dispute arising from a collective and fundamental breach of contract of employment or collective agreement on the part of the employee, trade union or employer.
(D) The provisions for arbitration in the Trade Dispute Act Cap 437 Laws of the Federation, 1990 have first been complied with; and
(E) In the case of an employee or a trade union, a ballot has been conducted in accordance with the rules and constitution of the trade union at which a simple majority of all registered members voted to go on strike.

Sub Section (7) provides
“Any person, trade union or employer who contravenes any of the provisions of this has weakened the power of the trade unions to use the weapon (strike) which they know how to use best to fight government or employers' policies that is unfavorable to workers and the masses
Sub Section (8) provides
“The provisions for arbitration in the Trade Disputes Act Cap 437 Laws of the Federation, 1990 shall apply in all disputes affecting the provision of essential services and the determination of the National Industrial Court in all such disputes shall be final”
Sub Section (9) provides
“For the purpose of this Act:
(A) “disputes of right” means any labour dispute arising from the negotiation, application, interpretation or implementation of a contract of employment or collective agreement under this Act or any other enactment or law governing matters relating to terms and conditions of employment.
(B) “essential services” shall be defined in the First Schedule of the Trade Disputes Act Cap 437 Laws of the Federation, 1990. By virtue of the provision of the First Schedule to the Trade Disputes Act Cap 437 Laws of the Federation 1990 Essential Services include:
1. The public services of the Federation or of a State which include service in a civil capacity or persons employed in the armed forces of the federation or any part thereof, and persons employed in an industry or undertaking (corporate or incorporate) which does or is connected with the manufacture of production of materials for use in the armed forces of the federation or any part thereof.
2. Any service established, provided or maintained by the government of the
federation or of a state, by a local government council, a town council or any municipal or statutory authority or by private enterprise:
(a) for or in connection with the supply of electricity, power or water, or of fuel or any kind;
(b) for, or in connection with sound broadcasting or postal, telegraphic, cable, wireless or telephone communications;
(c) for maintaining ports, harbours, docks or aerodromes, or for in connection with transportation of persons, goods or livestock by road, rail, sea, river or Air;
(d) for or in connection with the burial of the dead, hospitals, the treatment of the sick, the prevention of disease, or any of the following public health matters; namely, sanitation, road cleansing and the disposal of night soil and rubbish;
(e) for dealing with outbreaks of fire.
3. Service in any capacity in any of the following organizations (a) Central Bank (b) The Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company Limited
(c) Any body corporate licensed to carry on banking business under the Banking Act 1969.
As a whole the provision of Section 31 of the Act 2005 has make it difficult for workers to jointly protest for their rights when such rights are breached by the government. Certain categories of workers cannot even join the strike because they are engaged in essential services as defined above. It needs no soothsayer to tell that once these categories of workers are left out from joining in strike, there cannot be any effective strike actions that would make the government respond to the needs of the workers.

It is evident from the new provisions that the amendment to the existing Act has strip the power of the trade unions to use the weapon of strike to fight government or employers' policies that is unfavorable to workers and the masses.

1 comment:

azuka said...

A law against strikes. Are they kidding? People can very well choose whether to or not to strike and those laws would be moot!

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