The federal government has inaugurated a 10-person committee to resolve the dispute between the Kaduna state government and the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) and ensure industrial harmony in the state.
A statement issued by a deputy director of the ministry, Mr. Charles Akpan, on Saturday in Abuja, said the committee was inaugurated by the Minister of Labor and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige.
The Nigerian News Agency (NAN) reports that the committee was chaired by the permanent secretary of the ministry, Dr Peter-Yemira Tarfa.
Ngige appointed Kaduna State Government Secretary (SSG) Balarabe Lawal and NLC Deputy National Chairman Najim Hashim as co-chairs of the committee and director of union services and industrial relations, ministry of labor and of employment, Mrs. OU Akpan, as Secretary.
He urged the members of the committee to meet the expectations of President Muhammadu Buhari by ensuring the return of industrial peace in the state.
The minister recalled that the federal government had apprehended the strike initiated by the NLC in the state in May, with the parties signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to restore peace.
He said that the intermediate circumstances had made the reconstitution of the committee inevitable.
According to him, the committee should resolve all issues in dispute between the state government and the NLC.
Ngige, who acknowledged that the issues in dispute were primarily trade disputes, gave the committee 21 days to submit its report.
He urged the committee to resolve issues holistically and be guided by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as well as the country’s labor laws.
Ngige noted that downsizing or streamlining the workforce in any organization, government or private sector, was a termination issue, which should be subject to the principles set out in the Trade Disputes Act, Laws of the Federation, 2004, Cap L1.
“The law says in section 20 (A) that:“ In the event of dismissal, every employer must inform the unions or workers’ representatives concerned of the reasons or the extent of their early dismissal.
“Section 20 (B) also states that the principles of ‘last in, first out’ shall be adopted in the dismissal of the category of workers concerned, subject to all factors of relative merit, including skills, capabilities and reliability.
“So in applying that, we have to subject it to the relativity of merit, competence, ability and reliability. If someone has a fake certificate, ask them to go because they didn’t deserve the job in the first place.
“If you go to a nursing home and find someone who works in the department with a bachelor’s degree in history, they’re disqualified because they don’t have the skills in the first place.
“He has to go. So these are the qualifications that should be noted in this last in, first out principle. It is not absolute. There are exceptions and qualifications,” he said. .
Ngige added that an employer has the right to downsize their organization but is required by law to negotiate severance pay with any dismissed worker.
He claimed that there was nothing wrong with the Kaduna state government to stop spending 96% of its income on personnel costs in order to save enough for investment projects, however adding that it must be done within the framework of the law.
According to him, Annex 2 of the 1999 Constitution clearly sets out the issues contained in Article 34 of this Annex which go beyond the powers of state governments.
He said they included issues relating to unions, labor disputes, arbitration and conciliation as well as the national minimum wage, all of which fall within the purview of the federal government.
Meanwhile, the minister briefed the committee on the president’s expectations for the speedy return of industrial harmony in the state, especially at a time when the state faced the challenges of armed banditry.
“Mr. President has asked me to inform you that he expects peace to return to Kaduna, which has been his state of residence and home to many retired generals, permanent secretaries and senior administrators, between others of northern Nigerian origin.
“So I ask you to approach this mission with conciliation in mind so that we don’t have a repeat of what happened in May.
“I take this opportunity to appeal to you, as Minister of Labor, father of unions and friend of Kaduna State, to walk the path of peace. With peace we can make progress, both as a government and as a union, ”he said.
Also speaking, Kaduna State SSG, assured the state government’s commitment to restore industrial harmony, adding that the government is not at war with the workers.
In his remarks, NLC Chairman Ayuba Wabba said the unions were determined to resolve the stalemate in the state.
“I pray that this will be the last conflict between the unions and the Kaduna state government. It is a business issue that can be resolved and must be resolved, ”he said. (NAA)