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FG Slams, Begs Labour: Your Strike Illegal, Return For Negotiations


The Federal Government has labelled the indefinite strike action planned by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) as “premature, ineffectual, and illegal.”

This stance was outlined in a letter addressed to the leaders of both labour unions by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef O. Fagbemi, SAN. The letter was obtained by Meteor News over the weekend.

Fagbemi emphasized that the declaration was premature as the Federal Government and other stakeholders involved in the Tripartite Committee on determining a new national minimum wage had not concluded their negotiations.

He wrote, “My attention has been drawn to a statement made on May 31, 2024, by the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) declaring an indefinite nationwide strike action from June 3, 2024.

“You are aware that the Federal and State Governments are not the only employers to be 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, including the Organized Private Sector, to determine a minimum wage for the generality of the working population,” Fagbemi stated.

Fagbemi drew attention to Sections 41(1) and 42(1) of the Trade Disputes Act 2004 (as amended), which mandate that both NLC and TUC issue a minimum of 15 days’ notice before any strike action.

According to him, these sections state: “If any worker employed in any essential service ceases to perform the work he is employed to perform without giving his employer at least fifteen days’ notice, he shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N100 or to imprisonment for six months.”

“It is pertinent to observe 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,” Fagbemi pointed out. He stressed that non-compliance with this requirement is criminalized under Sections 41 and 42(1)(b).

“In addition to the foregoing, the legality or legitimacy of the proposed strike action is also strongly called into question 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 the Trade Disputes Act 2004 (as amended).”

Attorney General Fagbemi. Photograph: Lateef Fagbemi/Facebook

He elaborated that the proposed strike action breaches several conditions under Section 31(6) of the Trade Unions Act (as amended). This includes the requirement that no strike should be undertaken by workers engaged in essential services without first complying with arbitration provisions and conducting a ballot among union members.

“The alleged issuance of an ultimatum to the government by labour for the conclusion of negotiations before May 31, 2024, does not satisfy the requirement of issuing a categorical and unequivocal formal notice of strike action,” Fagbemi asserted.

Fagbemi also cited the interim injunctive order granted on June 5, 2023, in SUIT NO: NICN/ABJ/158/2023 – FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA & ANOR V. NIGERIAN LABOUR CONGRESS & ANOR. This order restrains both the NLC and TUC from embarking on any industrial action or strike of any nature.

“This order has neither been stayed nor set aside, therefore it remains binding on the labour unions,” he emphasized.

The Attorney General recalled that in the aftermath of the fuel subsidy removal, the government and labour unions agreed to measures to mitigate the adverse consequences, as outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed on October 2, 2023. This MOU includes provisions for wage awards, the establishment of a minimum wage committee, the provision of CNG buses and conversion kits, and tax incentives.

“In the same MOU, both NLC and TUC committed to henceforth abide by the dictates of social dialogue in all our future engagements,” Fagbemi noted.

He urged the labour unions to reconsider the strike declaration and return to the ongoing negotiation meetings.

“While the Government assures that it would continue to adopt a conciliatory approach to resolving matters pertaining to workers and citizens’ welfare in the spirit of collective bargaining, I urge you to kindly reconsider the declaration of strike action and return to the ongoing negotiation meetings,” Fagbemi appealed.

 “This would be a more civil and patriotic approach and will enable your Congress to pursue its cause within the ambit of the law and avoid foisting avoidable hardships on the generality of Nigerians, which this proposed industrial action is bound to cause.”

Fagbemi concluded by soliciting understanding from the labour unions and reiterated the government’s commitment to resolving the issues through dialogue. “While soliciting your kind understanding, please accept the assurances of my esteemed regards,” he signed off.

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