The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has said members of the National Assembly, particularly members of House of Representatives, cannot gag workers by proposing a Bill to outlaw strikes and other industrial actions, especially by the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU).
A Member of the House of Representatives from Enugu State, Simon Atige, had championed a bill titled: ‘An Act to amend the Trade Disputes Act, cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004,’ to prohibit medical practitioners in the employment of federal, state and local governments in the “essential service” sectors from embarking on strikes, and to accelerate administrative and judicial proceedings in the determination of trade disputes involving them and related matters.
NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who on Monday in Abuja insisted that Nigerian workers would not accept the bill and would ensure they use all available means and strength to stop it, noted that the proposed bill was a deliberate attempt to gag the workers and legally weaken their strength, so they can lose legal backing to pursue their legitimate rights which mostly comes from strike and other industrial actions.
Wabba, who disagreed with the plan to categorize health care workers under JOHESU as “essential” service providers by the bill, insisted that the proposed bill was an outright violation of fundamental human right of workers, and also a violation of some section of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions particularly on the Freedom of Association which Nigeria is a signatory to.
According to him, some sections of the International Labour Organisation (ILO)/document particularly on Freedom of Association, only recognised air traffic controllers as essential service workers.
Wabba advised the lawmakers to shift their attention to tackling poverty and other socioeconomic challenges instead of channelling their energy to things that won’t solve problems.
He said: “Compilation 769 of the ILO treaty stated clearly that strikes aimed at increase in wages and payment of wage arrears falls within the scope of legitimacy of trade union activities.
“Also, compilation 751 stated that the right of workers to strike constitute a fundamental human rights of workers and their organisation, especially unions. Besides, strikes are used as means of defending the economy, social rights and interests of workers.”
Wabba promised that the NLC will not be confrontational in their approach against the lawmakers, but rather they would adopt the option of lobbying and other means to pacify the lawmakers, and properly educate them on the dangers of their steps and the need to retrace their steps for the benefit of all.