The Federal Government on Friday warned the non-academic staff unions of universities preparing to go on an indefinite strike, starting from mid-night of February 5, 2021, not to take that route, arguing that it is illegal for any union to proceed on strike while negotiations are still ongoing.
Recall that Fedredsnews yesterday reported that the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU), the Non-Academic Staff to Universities (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), had recently given notices of embarking on a strike over a variety of issues.
However, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, while speaking to State House Correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, said going ahead to effect the strike while negotiations are still ongoing would be a breach of local and international Labour codes and statutes.
He pleaded with the unions to allow three months of grace for the Federal Government forward the 2021 Supplementary Budget to the National Assembly to cover arrears of the minimum wage that have not been paid to them.
The Nation had reported the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of SSANU and NASU had given the Federal Government till midnight of February 5 to address about its seven points demand or risk indefinite strike.
Ngige told State House reporters that he met Buhari to discuss labour related matters especially the threat by the university non-teaching workers to embark on strike.
He said that the government had “apprehended” the strike by engaging on social dialogue with the unions, adding it would be an illegality if they should go ahead with the planned strike.
According to him: “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 International Labour Organisation and the Nigeria Trade Dispute Act and we will frown at it if they ever go that route.”
Also asked if the government would invoke no work no pay policy should the workers go ahead with the strike, Ngige said: “I don’t want to go to that area because I presume that good judgment will prevail.
“They know that if they go that route, yes they also have a right to strike and the employer also has the right to some reliefs.
“They also know that when they go that route it means that they have broken down the negotiation in my place that they are not listening.
“The labour laws also say what I can do if I find that I can’t manage the situation. The law says that I can refer those disputes upwards starting from industrial arbitration panel to the National Industrial Court, so these are the options that are left.
“I am very optimistic that if they give us three months, the Finance Minister will do the needful,” he pleaded.