Warning Strikes Are Unacceptable Threats, FG Tells Labour

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The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chief Chris Ngige, has warned labour unions in the country that the Federal Government would no longer tolerate warning strikes.

He described warning strikes as threats that were unacceptable to government, reminding them that the no work no pay rule was backed by the nation’s constitution.

Ngige spoke with State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting.

The Minister who noted that there is nothing workers cannot get by negotiation, he urged the unions to embrace social dialogue and collective bargaining agreements while making their demands.

He said, “We also have warnings from doctors’ union and ASUU as well as NASU. We are discussing with them but we want to appeal to all of them that there is nothing like warning strike.

“There is nothing you cannot get by negotiation and you cannot get certain things by threats. Warning strikes as far as government is concerned are threats. I have made it clear to them.

“Government and labour laws make provision for social dialogue and collective bargaining agreements. It also makes provision for the review of the agreements.

“Nigerian unions should imbibe the culture of social dialogue.”

Ngige while conceding that workers were entitled to go on strike, he said they should bear in mind also that employers were not under any obligation to pay striking workers.

He said that was the more reason why workers should learn to approach their employers for renegotiation when some agreements were not complied with.

The minister said, “They (workers) can go on strike after giving the mandatory notices but the same law says in Section 43 that if you withdraw your services, your union is supposed to pay you. Your employer will not pay. That is how the issue of no work, no pay came up.

“It is in the country’s labour. For the period you withdraw your services, it will not count for you in your pensionable times. It is taken as broken service. The unions have the responsibility to lecture their members on this.

“If your employer has not complied with an agreement, you take him back to negotiation table or he  can ask you for a re-negotiation.”

Ngige attributed the regular face off between government and labour unions to the fact that most labour agreements were not backed by appropriation.

He said government at times, because of threats and pressure from the unions, succumb to certain conditions that are not implementable.

While saying that there a lot of such agreements that are not implementable, the minister said that was why university unions will have to go back for renegotiation for the 2009 agreement they had with the Federal Government.

“We want them to give government a chance. Government has a human face; we are human,” he said.

Ngige also disclosed that a committee set up on new minimum wage will submit its report next week.

He said the government was attending to industrial relations issues as much as possible within the strength of the economy.

Ngige said, “Government is on the issue of industrial relations as possible as we can, especially with an economy that is in technical recession like ours.

“We have cooperations from most of the unions: the NLC and the TUC. We have maximum cooperation  from them.

“On the minimum wage issue, we have a technical committee that is working and members of the two congresses are members of that committee. We are almost finishing our work and we are handing over next week.

“Everybody knows that prices have gone up and in some states, workers are not getting salaries. They are unable to pay the minimum wage. These are the things we have taken into

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