There are indications that more crisis may erupt in the industrial sector as members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), rose from their meeting on Wednesday to approve a draft white paper for implementation of “No work no pay rule”.
The clause which is contained in section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act would be transmitted to the National Assembly anytime soon.
Other reforms contained in the Technical Committee on Industrial Relations Matters in Public Service which the government plans to use in checking the excesses of unionists include specified tenure timeframe for union executives, parties to represent government and unions in collective bargaining agreement, maximum of seven years’ time frame for resident doctors to conclude their programme among others.
He recalled that a panel to smoothen industrial relations was inaugurated in April 2016 and submitted its report in October 2017, after which he chaired the committee to draft a White Paper on the report with intent to harmonise contentious or grey areas.
Highlights of the report as approved by FEC include that employers of labour who lock out workers must pay them for the period they didn’t work, while in the public service the no-work-no-pay rule should be applied by employers when they embark on industrial action.
It also specifies no more than two-term limits for government employees elected into executive committees of various labour unions to prevent them from using their positions to thwart their original workplace assignments, regulations or transfers and similar duties.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, a medical doctor by training, also announced that the White Paper approved seven-year limit for medical personnel undergoing residency training by which time they are expected to pass their exams and quit residency.
The gross abuse of private practice by health officials in full government employment, cases of public school teachers also operating their own private schools and similar infractions are expected to be addressed by the new regulations.
Ngige, who briefed State House correspondents of the development, however, confirmed that the National Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage has not reached a truce yet on a consensus benchmark for wages.
He explained that state governments were still insisting on N20,700 as the least they can afford, while federal government has not shifted ground from N24,000 even though the organized labour have pegged their minimum on N30,000 respectively.
His words, “The Federal Executive Council approved the draft White Paper on the report of the Technical Committee on the Industrial Relations Matters in the Federal Public Service. As you might all be aware, the Federal Public Service in Nigeria has been bedevilled with all sorts of problems and conflict areas.
“So over time government has set up various Committees, brought out establishment circulars, brought out circulars from the various government agencies all in a bid to stem the tide of industrial disputes.
“So this Technical Committee which was inaugurated on the 21st of April 216 did their work and submitted to the Federal Executive Council in October 2017. The Federal Executive Council in turn empanelled a committee of 10 which I chaired to do a government draft White Paper on those contentious areas that the technical committee had looked at.
“These contentious areas are the enforcement of Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act Law of the Federation 2004. This is the section that deals with lockout of workers by their employer without declaring redundancy appropriately because the same establishment especially in the private sector workers are locked out by their employers.
“So the law there says that if you lock out your workers without passing through the normal channel, due process for the period of the lock out, the worker is assumed to be at work and will receive all remunerations and allowances and benefits accruing to him for the period and that period will also be counted to him as a pensionable period in computation of his pension.
“But when workers go on strike, the principle of ‘No work, no pay’ will also be applied because that principle is enshrined in that same Section 43 of the Labour Act. That section says for the period a worker withdraws his services, government or his employers are not entitled to pay and the period for which they were absent will not count as part of his pensionable period in the public service.
“So, Council accepted it as a White Paper recommendation that should be gazetted because even the National Industrial Court has made pronouncement on that law and said that it is clear.
“Another area is the public servants remaining permanently in the executive bodies of trade unions. Government realises that some persons in the public service go into trade union executive positions, hold offices and they do that for life for as long as they are in the service. And in doing so, they will refuse postings and redeployment under the guise that they are doing trade union activities, government says no.
“You have to be a public servant first before you become a trade unionist. Therefore, if you are there, the Public Service Rules should also be applied to you and in doing so, government says establishments will look at issues and give it a human face in order not to disrupt trade unionism.
“And in furtherance to this, government has also said that there must be tenure stipulations because people stay there without tenures, many organizations give people union positions without tenure. Government says there is no office that doesn’t have a tenure.
“Trade unions now should give us Constitution that must have tenure at least maximum of two tenure for any elective position.
“Again, the third point that government looked at in the technical report for us is the authentication of documents in collective bargaining. Often times in government circles, we have gotten circulars that are fake being presented by people who come for collective bargaining agreements. Sometimes, even some parastatals can present something that is not really authenticated.
“Government therefore says all collective agreements must be authenticated by the rightful authorities and domiciled with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
“Next point is the issue of skipping. You all know about the history of skipping. The doctors want to skip, the doctors want to skip, the laboratory technologist wants to skip always especially in the medical sector. It has now spilled over into the general public service. Therefore government says Head of Service of the Federation must bring out a circular immediately to stop skipping arrangements.”