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OPS Issues Serious Threat To NLC, TUC As They Plan To Declare Fresh Nationwide Strike

The ongoing conflict over the new minimum wage and increased electricity tariffs in Nigeria is escalating as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) near the end of their five-day strike suspension with a fresh nationwide strike likely to begin.

Consequently, the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), representing the Organised Private Sector, OPS, issued a threat to the organised labour about enforcing the ‘No Work No Pay’ policy if the strike resumes.

Adewale Smatt-Oyerinde, NECA’s Director General, highlighted this stance at the International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland. He stated that under Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, employers are legally entitled to withhold pay for days not worked during strikes.

“The employers have the right not to pay for work not done as per the Trade Dispute Act Section 43. It is part of our law,” Smatt-Oyerinde explained.

This development comes as labor unions have given the Federal Government a five-day ultimatum to meet their demands, which include an acceptable new wage and a retraction of the new electricity tariffs. The government’s offer of a ₦62,000 minimum wage has not satisfied union leaders, leading to threats of renewed strikes.

Smatt-Oyerinde questioned the feasibility of paying employees during a strike when production halts. “Where would the employer get the money to pay when work is not done? It is a rule of justice,” he asked.

He also noted that the right to strike is governed by both international and local industrial laws and is currently being reviewed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) following disputes at the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

“The context of ultimatum and strikes is guided by law and framework. We will wait for the ICJ’s interpretation,” he said.

Smatt-Oyerinde emphasized that all parties must operate within the legal framework, referencing an existing order from the National Industrial Court (NIC). He added, “If you disagree with it, you should go back to the court to contest it. Operating beyond the legal framework is not an option.”

He stressed the importance of adhering to established institutions like the NIC and the Industrial Arbitration Panel (AIP) to maintain societal order. “We must follow those institutions before escalating issues,” he said.

On the minimum wage, Smatt-Oyerinde stated that employers aligned with the Federal Government’s ₦62,000 proposal due to current economic conditions affecting businesses. “The employers painfully agreed to ₦62,000, considering the state of businesses in the country,” he said, noting the potential negative impact on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

He acknowledged that while the Governors’ forum and organized labor have different proposals, the final decision rests with the President. “The committee makes recommendations to the Federal Government. The President will then make his recommendation to the National Assembly,” he explained. He noted that in 2019, the labor and employer sectors agreed on ₦30,000, while the Governors’ forum proposed ₦22,000, but the National Assembly approved ₦30,000.

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