FACED with the imminence of the return of Organised Labour to perhaps a protracted strike, the Federal Government last week threatened to enforce the “No work, no pay” policy if the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, calls for another work stoppage.
The NLC had after the expiration of a 14-day ultimatum for the Federal Government to resume its abandoned tripartite committee negotiations towards a new National Minimum Wage, NMW, called a nationwide strike on Thursday, September 27, 2018.
However, following the government’s firm assurances to revive the talks on Thursday, October 4, 2018, the NLC called off the strike on Sunday, September 30, barely after three days.
Problems, however, arose again after the committee ended its work. While the Federal Government alleged that no figure had been arrived at, the NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, maintained that all parties had agreed to implement a new NMW of N30,000. The Federal Government, however, clarified that the N30,000 was the figure named by Organised Labour, while the Federal Government offered N24,000 and state governments 20,000.
Following indications that Labour could resume the strike, the Federal Executive Council threatened to stem the tide of industrial unrests by invoking Section 34 (1) of the Trade Disputes Law of the Federation 2004. This section of the Law says employers who lock out their staff without going through the due process would pay them for the period of the lockout. On the other hand, workers who withdraw their services will not be entitled to pay for the period of work stoppage.
Traditionally, successive governments deploy all forms of tactics to delay the implementation of agreements they reach with Labour, and the NLC believes that the Federal Government’s insistence that no agreement had been reached is just a resort to an old time-buying trick.
The invocation of the “No work, no pay” policy whenever stalemates are reached between Labour and governments is not new.
But it rarely works. Even during the days of the military, governments even sometimes threatened to sack the entire workforce and recruit new hands. But eventually they return to the discussion table. Strikes are called off only when government agrees to pay all salary arrears, including those accumulated during strikes.
Government has yet to come up with a cast-iron strategy to enforce the “no work, no pay” law. Instead, it is the workers who always succeed in enforcing their “no pay, no work” power and invariably force government to pay for the strikes.
Government’s typical unfaithfulness is the major reason for most public sector workers’ strikes in Nigeria. This ignoble “culture” must stop. Workers must also reciprocate by showing understanding. Public resources are limited, and government has a responsibility to also provide amenities and services to the people.