#You’Re Breaching Law By Stopping Workers From Union Membership, FG Tells Employers

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These were the words of the Federal Government through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, affirming the right of workers to freely join unions at workplaces in line with section 40 of the Nigerian Constitution and the International Labour Organisation, ILO, Conventions 87 and 98, at a two-day tripartite harmonisation and validation of Reviewed Labour Laws Bills
in Abuja.

In an address, Ngige insisted that “we must align ourselves with all the ILO principles in workplaces, including the principles of strike and picketing”.

The Minister noted that in the last one month, a lot of things had gone wrong in the labour sector, which his ministry and the Presidency were upset about in terms of employer-employee relationship.

He said: “We need to draw the line so that people will know when they cross the other person’s line. No employer is supposed to interfere in the election of officers of a union
or prevent workers from unionisation, except the organisations that have been
mentioned and given this exemption all over the world, which are domesticated in our
labour laws.

“But unions and workers should not go into who should be employed or appointed by
the appointing authority – Mr. President – especially when the Constitution of the country
permits him to appoint.”

Ngige explained that except in areas where the Constitution told Mr. President to
share this appointment procedure with the National Assembly by sending names of
appointees for screening and confirmation, no other person except the National Assembly
could tell him who to appoint or not to appoint.

He said the reviewed Labour Bills would be validated at the meeting and sent to the FEC
for approval and afterwards, the council would direct the Attorney- General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice to transmit the reviewed Labour laws to the
National Assembly for passage.

“The bills include the Collective Labour Relations Bill to repeal the Trade Union Act
CAP T14 and T15 LFN, 2004, Trade Disputes Act, CAP T8 and T9, Trade Union Affiliation, and Trade Union Essential Services.

“We are also trying to enact the Occupational Safety and Health Bill to repeal the Factories Act CAP F1 LFN, 2004 and Labour Institutions Bill to create the National Commission for Conciliation and Arbitration as well as strengthen other existing institutions,”
Ngige said.

According to him, the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund Act, NSITF, 2010 was
equally being reviewed to align Employee Compensation Act, ECA, with globally
acceptable workplace laws.

Ngige maintained that the harmonization and validation underscore the Federal Government’s continuous commitment to fulfilling its obligations as a member –
state of ILO, and ensure best practices in labour administration and decent work for
all.

He recalled that the Ministry and its social partners had undertaken the review of the
National Labour Bills in the past but it suffered some abortions until the present efforts
to review the labour laws started last year in Lagos before the outbreak of COVID19 pandemic.

The Minister said his Ministry took action after the ILO had expressed displeasure with Nigeria for not bringing labour laws up to date and in conformity with its conventions and principles at work.

He said: “We are also trying to align our laws with all the recommendations so that we
will not fall short of expectations from a country that has three membership of the Governing Board.

“We have membership as a Government and even headed it for two years (2016-2018) and also headed workers and employers groups in the ILO Governing Board.”

He said they were expected at the meeting to consider the enabling Acts to parastatals
of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, including the National Directorate of Employment Act, 2004, the National Productivity Centre Act, Act 2004 and the Michael Imuodu National Institute of Labour Studies Act.

“There are also three members bill initiated in the National Assembly. The bill on
casualisation of workers, which seeks the end of ill-treatment of Nigerian workers
through yellow dog employment, by which major employers hide under the canopy of
labour contractors to perpetrate unfair labour practices like stoppage of work, unionisation and retrenchment at will.

“There is also a bill for the amendment of labour law fines.”

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