BY VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG
BARRING last minute settlement, the organized labour and Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, may engage in public disagreement over their different postures regarding the N18.000 minimum wage row.
Before now, organized labour and NECA have enjoyed a cordial relation.
NECA, the umbrella body for private sector employers in the country, stirred the hornet’s nest when it described the aborted three- day warning strike called by Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, as illegal.
The shelved strike was to compel governments at all levels and private employers to implement the new wage illegal.
Another potential area of disagreement is NECA threat to move against labour’s automatic check-off due.
Already NLC has condemned what it termed “this strange double speak by a reputable organisation like NECA “ and declared that either the employers’ body is confused or desperate to protect its inability to implement the minimum wage in the private sector.
President of NECA, Chief Richard Uche had Monday, July 18, at a briefing on the planned strike, said among others, “We advise private sector employers not to be jittery or fearful of the so -called strike. They should direct their employees, through their internal communication channels, as a matter of necessity, to report for work in spite of the NLC / TUC’s strike.
They should make it abundantly clear to their empln oyees that failure to report for work would attract appropriate sanctions based on their terms and conditions of employment.”
“In view of the fact that this intended strike by NLC / TUC is illegal, unnecessary and amount to abuse of trade union right, we call on the Federal Government to rise up to the occasion as it cannot continue to act as a hen-pecked sovereign.
Government should, therefore, mobilize the entire security machinery to ensure that movement of Nigerians is not in any way hindered by hoodlums and miscreants, whom the organized labour may want to use to create mayhem in the environment.
On no account should the government allow organized labour to trample on the rights of the majority of Nigerians and workers who will want to pursue their legitimate means of livelihood.”
NLC hits back at NECA
Reacting to NECA’s view that the suspended strike was illegal among others, NLC in a statement by Chris Uyot Head, Information & Public Relations unit, said the employers’ body was either confused or desperate to protect its inability to implement the minimum wage in the private sector.
According the statement, “It is rather unfortunate that while NECA ostensibly in one breath is prevailing on the government to pay the National Minimum wage, in another breathe it claimed that action to actualize the payment of the wages was illegal.
Given this strange double speak by a reputable organisation like NECA who should know better having been part of the process of negotiating the new wages and a key partner in industrial relations, we cannot but conclude that it is either the employers body is confused or desperate to protect its inability to implement the minimum wage in the private sector.”
“We consider this outburst by NECA as not only mischievous but a betrayal of all it has ever stood for as a social partner with the labour movement. This long standing relationship which has survived over the years had been built on adherence to the efficacy of agreements and mutual respect for the principled position of both organisations.
It is apparent that NECA which was part of the negotiated minimum wage is attempting to seek a route to observe in the breach the implementation of the new wage in the private sector. This is the more reason the strike must be total in the private sector.
By their statement, it is now obvious that NECA who should have been involved in providing platforms for peaceful resolution of industrial crisis will be inciting the state against armless workers genuinely demanding for their legitimate rights.”
NECA threatens automatic check-off due
Not done with its attacks on labour over strikes, Director-General of NECA, Mr. Segun Osinowo, at the 54th Annual General Meeting, AGM, of the employers’ body, threatened that the body would move against automatic check-off due, a major source of fund for labour.
In apparent response to earlier warning by President-General of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, Comrade Peter Esele, that there would always be an strikes in as much as employers in both public and private sectors of the economy refused to respect the sanctity of agreements or follow due process in their actions and policies,
Mr. Osinowo said: “We will be forced to canvass for a return to pre 1976 and 1978 era where labour leaders approached individual worker to solicit for check-off due.
We were part of the fight for automatic check-off due labour. If today labour wants to use same money to fight us, we will be forced to move against automatic check-off and a return to pre-78 era for labour leaders to go to the individual worker to solicit for check-off.”
Earlier, President of NECA, Chief Richard Uche decried incessant strikes in the country, lamenting that “the year 2010 was quite challenging in the industrial relations space.
It was characterized with unprecedented and alarming incidence of strikes. From the NLC’s strike on the issue of the National Minimum wage, the Doctors strike on improved welfare package and to so many others, pitifully, too numerous to mention. From industry to industry, the unions were downing tools.
These strikes are, at best, an anathema to national development. The economy that had been struggling to come out of the woods was further plunged into a comatose state.
At a time when the economies of the Americas and Asia were witnessing gradual and steady growth out of the economic recession, the Nigerian economy was still bedeviled with work stoppages. This calls for concern and positive action by all stakeholders.”