In an interview with State House correspondents shortly after a meeting he had with the President, Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige told members of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities and the National Association of Academic Technologists that they cannot go ahead with their planned industrial action slated to start by midnight.
The minister reiterated that going ahead with the planned strike would run contrary to the International Labour Organisation’s statute on social dialogue and principles at work.
The minister said SSANU and NASU notified the government of the planned strike and their employers have listened and have brought them to the table for discussion. He added that the government has moved to “apprehend the strike” because the country just came out from a strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities which lasted nine months.
Ngige explained, “In consonance with the labour laws, we have apprehended both strikes. They gave us trade dispute notice, we scheduled meetings with them after apprehension, we held meeting with NASU and SSANU last week Tuesday and government’s position was explained to them.
“They have a lot of issues mentioned as their grouse, issues like IPPIS. They said IPPIS has amputated some of their allowances, they also have the issue of consequential adjustment that was paid to all civil servants as a result of the new minimum wage of N30,000 for staff above Grade Level One, that is starting from Grade Level Two up to Level 17.”
According to the minister, explanations have been made on all the issues raised by the unions.
“So, in the main, after conferring with Mr President, we are telling the unions not to carry out the action because that action will run counter to ILO Statute on social dialogue and principles at work because their employers have listened, they have brought them to the table.
“So, for SSANU and NASU, we are imploring them not to carry out their threat which they said will take effect from this midnight.
“More so, when the meeting adjourned at their own instance. Just this morning, I received a letter from them giving us a new date for the continuation of the dialogue.
“They proposed a new date of Thursday, February 11 and my office has communicated to them back that we will be ready for them at that time because as they claimed, they needed time to consult with their constituency and come back on the fresh issues that have cropped up from the discussion.”
When asked why Federal Government waited till the last day to respond to threats by the unions since the had given notice to embark on strike starting from midnight of February 8, the minister said, “It will be preposterous for them to say that as we wait to negotiate further, they are invoking a strike by midnight today. That will be against the labour statute of both the ILO and the Nigeria Trade Dispute Act and we will frown at it if they ever go that route.”
Ngige was not categorical on whether government would invoke no work no pay policy should the workers go ahead with the strike.
“I don’t want to go to that area because I presume that good judgment will prevail.” He said,