Minimum Wage: Labour’s Proposed Strike Premature, Illegal, Unions Should Return To Negotiation Table, Says AGF Fagbemi

Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Lateef O. Fagbemi, SAN, has declared the proposed nationwide strike by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) as premature and illegal. The strike, set to commence on 3rd June 2024, was announced by the union leaders on 31st May 2024.

The Attorney-General, in a letter sent to the Labour Unions on Saturday, highlighted that the declaration of the strike is premature, given that negotiations on a new national minimum wage are still ongoing. He stressed the importance of balancing the interests and capacities of all employers, including the organised private sector, before concluding wage determinations.

Citing Sections 41 and 42 of the Trade Disputes Act 2004, Fagbemi pointed out that the NLC and TUC have failed to issue the mandatory 15-day strike notice, which is a legal requirement. He further noted that the unions did not follow the statutory dispute resolution procedures, making their proposed action illegitimate and unlawful.

The letter read, “It is pertinent to observe that at no time did either NLC or TUC declare a trade dispute with their employers. or issue any strike notice as required by law or such strike action to be legitimate and lawful. It is not in doubt that the fundamental importance of the 15-day notice is underscored by the fact that Sections 41 & 42 (1) (b) criminalize non-compliance with this requirement for a valid declaration of strike action.

“In addition to the foregoing, the legality or legitimacy of the proposed strike action is also strongly called to question by the fact that both NLC and TUC failed to comply with the statutory condition precedents (dispute resolution procedures) provided for under Section 18 (1) (a) of the Trade Disputes Act 2004 (as amended)”

The letter also referenced an interim injunctive order from the National Industrial Court, issued on 5th June 2023, which restrains the labour unions from embarking on any industrial action. This order remains in effect and binding.

Fagbemi reminded the unions of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with the government on 2nd October 2023, which included measures to alleviate the impact of fuel subsidy removal. The MOU committed both parties to resolving disputes through social dialogue.

Urging the unions to reconsider the strike, the Attorney-General called for a return to the negotiation table, saying, “While the Government assures that it would continue to adopt a conciliatory approach to resolving matters pertaining to workers and citizens welfare in the spirit of collective bargaining, I would like to urge you to kindly reconsider the declaration of strike action and return to the ongoing negotiation meetings, which has been adjourned to a date to be communicated to parties.

“This would be a more civil and patriotic approach and will enable your Congress pursue its cause within the ambit of the law and avoid foisting avoidable hardships on the generality of Nigerians, which this proposed industrial action is bound to cause.”

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CR: Arise News

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