The Organised Labour made up of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) yesterday, accused the yet to be registered United Labour Congress (UCL) led by Joe Ajaero of blackmailing the Federal Government into setting aside legal requirements to register them, and declare that only registered trade union and federations have the legal right to declare a strike.
The NLC and the TUC said at a joint news conference in Abuja that while the United Labour Congress which is yet to be registered has no legitimate right to call for a general strike, only the various unions have the right to call for a strike, adding that at the moment, none of the existing unions who are believed to be affiliates of the ULC have declared any strike.
Presidents of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba and TUC, Bobboi Kaigama, asked workers to disregard the strike called by the ULC saying it violates the labour law of the country. He pointed out that the real intention of the promoters of the ULC was to compel government to register them as the Federation of Trade Unions.
Wabba described the ULC ultimatum as a mere attention seeking gimmick, adding that they had also “resorted to blackmail with the ultimate goal of using it as a weapon to obtain registration. We feel constrained to making the following comments on the unfolding situation.
“Despite listing 12 demands in their 11th September press statement, we have no doubt that those behind the ultimatum were only hoping to blackmail the Federal Government and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment to register their association as a central labour organisation, as they stated in their demand numbers 9-12.
“We have no doubt the officials of the Federal Ministry of Labour would deal with the situation as the laws of the country governing labour relations are very clear on the procedure guiding registrations of trade unions and trade union centres.
“Against the background of persistent mischief and dragging the names of our two centres in the mud by the promoters of the United Labour Congress, it has become pertinent to once again recall the events leading to their current desperation.”
He said the promoters of the ULC have just collected forms for the registration of dozen of “shell trade unions or trade unions without membership”, adding that rather than wait to get registered, they just proclaimed their existence, perhaps because they know very well that by the extant laws-the Trade Union Act, and the Trade Union Amendment Act, there was no way they could get recognition and registration for the dozen or so “shell unions”.
“These mushroom unions were carried out of existing industrial unions. However, the Trade Unions Act CAP T14, LFN, 2004, Section 3 (2) provided that: “But no trade union shall be registered to represent workers or employers in a place, where there already exists a trade union.
“These fake unions had not been registered, and would not be registered since all the areas have effective union coverage presently that are affiliates of the NLC and TUC.
“We had pointed out in our January 18th, 2017 letter to the Honourable Minister of the dangers posed by the activities of these erstwhile colleagues of ours, who rather than accept the decision of Nigerian workers to reject their leadership, are bent on creating anarchy in the industrial relations system in the country, by trying to register these mushroom and member-less unions.
“In the same letter, we had drawn attention to the fact that under the 2005 amendment to the section 34 of the Principal Act, it was clearly stated that a (new) federation of trade union(s) may be registered if (a) I (b): “It is made up of 12 or more trade unions, none of which shall have been a member of another registered federation of trade unions”.
“The main promoters of the so-called new federation are individuals from NUEE and NUPENG both are affiliates of the NLC. By the extant law as passed just some years ago, they cannot form another federation.”
On his part, TUC President, Bobboi Kaigama said the Labour laws of the federation are very clear that un-registered trade unions and federation(s) are prohibited from functioning. Under this section, a federation of trade unions shall not come into existence until it is registered.
He said: “Our erstwhile colleagues are therefore trying to take advantage of the unstable security and industrial relation situation in the country to increase the tension and give bad name to trade unionism.
“Nigerians need to know that they are not a legitimate organisation recognised by the laws of our country. They are largely a collection of individuals who find it difficult to accept the will of Nigerian workers, as very clearly demonstrated during the March 12-13 2015 election that took place at the Eagle Square, Abuja in which they were roundly defeated.
“We wish to state without equivocation that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment has acted within the confines of the law by not registering ULC and the phantom unions they put forward. No unregistered organisations or individuals can hold our dear country to ransom.
“We urge the Federal Ministry of Labour and workers to discountenance the threats of this illegal association. The ministry must be steadfast in upholding the laws governing trade union practice in the country.”