Says ‘he is ignorant of Labour Law’
By Victor Ahiuma-Young, reporting from Geneva, Switzerland
GENEVA—NIGERIA Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, yesterday lambasted the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, over his threat that the Federal Government would be forced to withdraw the operating licenses of banks and telecoms firms, should they continue to breach the directives to halt further sacks of workers, pending stakeholders meeting next month.
The Director-General of NECA, Mr. Segun Osinowo, who spoke while reacting to last Tuesday’s comments by the Minister over continuous retrenchment in the financial sector, especially banks despite his directive, said the Minister was not only ignorant of labour laws, but also reckless in arrogating the powers of the Federal Government to himself.
He said: “NECA is not informed by the ideological consideration or an interest concentration because Nigerian employers are equally Nigerians and they are interested in the welfare of Nigerians.
‘’The truth about it is that any employer that is worth its salt will not treat its valuable assets, which is human resource with ignominy or as slaves, to use the word of the minister because these are employees that companies have invested significantly on at all times. Left to them alone, they will want keep them so that they can support the companies in realizing their goals.
“NECA’s position is informed on the imperative for social partners and the government. Talking of social partners we are referring to the trade unions, employers and the government on the imperative for them to follow due process, to follow rule of law, to follow principles and structures in managing labour and industrial relations in Nigeria.
‘’It is only by that we can guarantee consistency and sanity in what we are doing. The only common benchmark that will ensure fairness and equity is for us all, whether ministry of labour as a regulator or as employers of labour and trade union, to subject our action and decision to rule of law, due diligence, structure and appropriate procedure.
“If we all agree that should be the standard for testing our action, we can then subject the action of the minister of labour to those principles which I have articulated, there won’t be subjectivity. What is the rule of law, when an employer wants to carry out retrenchment, there is a procedure in the law that he is supposed to follow.
‘’Second, the ministry of labour is supposed to be a superintending body that will ensure employers do the needful in line with the law. Did the employer follow the rule of law in carrying out the retrenchment?
‘’Employers will only follow the due process of the law if there is a trade union on ground. If there is no union on ground there will be no party to call for discussion.
“The minister has to show an understanding on this very principles. The Minister should understand that industrial relation is profession on its own. Anyone commenting on industrial relations must comment from a knowledge perspective.
‘’If I am employer of labour and the law say if I want to carry out retrenchment I must inform or discuss with my union, I will only do that if I have a union. I think the minister doesn’t seem to understand this aspect .
‘’The second aspect which the minister equally put emphasis on is that there must be Collective Bargaining Agreement, CBA. Again the minister failed to understand that you can only talk about CBA in a unionized environment. CBA are signed with with unions.
‘’If am employer and I want to carry out retrenchment, and I don’t have a union on ground, the issue of CBA cannot not arise. What we therefore fall back on is the terms and conditions of employment as contained in the employee hand book. The minister has not shown any understanding of this unfortunately.
“The real issue for us is, are the parties following the law? Are the parties following structure for engagement that is on ground? When we are talking parties, it includes the minister. The minister cannot act beyond the power that has been given to him by the law.
‘’The minister cannot force on himself the entire sovereign power of the federal government in giving directive. I really find it reckless for the minister at this age and time, will be threatening employers with withdrawal of licence.
‘’The global community is looking at his language and disposition. That is not the way to go. He is arrogating to himself the power of the federal government. He has to be careful in respect of some of these comments.”