Abuja — The federal government wednesday said it was prepared to enforce a provision in Trade Union Act which stipulates that workers should not be paid during the period that they embark on strike.
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of yesterday's weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) in the Presidential Villa, the Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, said the move to implement the provision was spurred by the recent plethora of strikes embarked upon by various unions particularly in the academic and health sectors without complying with relevant laws.
Ngige who also said the provision stipulates that the period of the industrial action is not pensionable, added that henceforth, collective bargaining agreement containing output of negotiations during industrial actions should be signed and domiciled in the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity. This will mark a departure from the norm where agreements during negotiations are not signed and officially documented with the ministry.
FEC decision was the offshoot of the recommendations of an inter-ministerial committee set up by the council last year to examine matters bordering on industrial relations in the country.
While the minister did not state the exact time that the implementation would take off, he said he was mandated by the council to inform workers that the law was still in force, pointing out that the ministry had also been mandated to stop union leaders who fail to comply with the law of the land by permanently serving as union leaders.
According to him, such labour leaders have to be made to comply with the laws of the land on union activities.
"There were certain industrial relations matter that were looked into by council. Council had earlier mandated the SGF to set up a committee on industrial relations matter in the federal public service. The committee was set up precisely on April 27, 2016. It was chaired by the SGF and co-chaired by Head of Service of the Federation.
"We had constituent members of the committee from National Income Wages and Service Commission, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Science and Technology and Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and they produced a report. This report was all encompassing and council considered it today.
"First and foremost, the report emphasised the need for government to implement the law on no work, no pay. No work, no pay is not a rule neither is it a policy. It is a law captured in the Trade Dispute Act of Laws of the Federation of Nigeria - Section 43 to be precise. It says that workers have the right to disengage their services from their employers if there is a breakdown of negotiations but for the period that the workers do so, the employers should not pay and those periods are to be counted as non-pensionable times.
"So, the council today emphasised that the law is still in place and the law should be brought to the knowledge of workers in the public sector, in the private sector especially those in the public sector. We have to do that because of the spate of industrial crises we suffered in the last two months where we had a plethora of strikes all over the place. So, council is saying we should emphasise this to workers. On the strike embarked upon the last time, we 'll see what we can do about that.
"Secondly, we looked at another recommendation in terms of people who are permanently doing union activities. They are presidents of trade unions for life. They criticise those who are trying to do third term or fourth term but they sit tight. So, my ministry was asked to fish out those unions whose constitutions do not have term limit. Such unions should be made to comply with the law so people can be elected; they serve their terms and go," Ngige said.
In his own briefing, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, said he briefed the council on the state of several outbreaks of diseases in the country in recent times, pointing out that the current outbreak described as monkey pox is currently being diagnosed in both Nigerian and Senegalese laboratories.
The minister who said it was not yet certain whether the disease is indeed monkey pox, said what is clear is that it belongs to the pox family adding that the result of the laboratory diagnosis will confirm the real name of the disease.
"The other one which is topical but less deadly is monkey pox. It actually started in Bayelsa and we have recorded 33 suspected cases in iBayelsa, Rivers, Ekiti, Akwa Ibom States, Lagos, Ogun and Cross River. What is particularly significant is that many of the cases reported do not fit into the classic prototype of monkey pox. But then, we are trying to confirm. Before the end of today or early tomorrow, we should be able to confirm what exactly we are dealing with. Is it really monkey pox?
"What is obvious is that we have a disease that is close to the pox family. We are looking at it. One of our scientists, Professor Christian Happy is looking into it in the laboratory to confirm if it is truly monkey pox. We are also doing a double-confirmation in Senegal because Senegal also has a public health laboratory that can do dignosis. So, we are looking at the two, so as to know what we have and hopefully in the next 24 or 48 hours, we should be able to make a diagnosis as to what we have.
"Our advice to Nigerians will be not to panic, report all suspected cases to health facilities and to continue to maintain a high level hygiene. Let's wash our hands. Let's avoid contact with dead animals, clean our surroundings and as much as possible meet health workers and career nursing where they are managing people. But what we need is greater cooperation from states. Sometimes, we don't get notified.
"There are two types of Monkey pox - Central African type and West African type. We suspect that if confirmed, we probably have West African type, which is milder because so far, we have not recorded any death from monkey pox. But we are waiting. As soon as we have the cases confirmed by Christian Happy and also confirm the Senegalese diagnosis, we will tell the nation," he said.
Adewole who also said the council set up a committee to carry out a comprehensive job evaluation in the health sector, disclosed that the committee would make recommendations on the seeming violation of laws by medical doctors in public practice who have cultivated the habit of running private hospitals while they are yet in public service.
He said anyone engaging in public service could not simultaneously engage in private service except farming adding that the acting Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Aminat Lawal, had been mandated to forward to the council the report of a committee headed by a former Head of Service, Yayale Ahmed, which looked into professional rivalry among professional groups in the health sector with a view to restoring harmony in the sector.
"In addition, council considered a memo on industrial relations particularly in the public sector and that report dealt extensively with several issues. But for us in health sector, the most important is actually the need to do a comprehensive job evaluation. "Government had decided to set up a committee that will evaluate what exactly do we do as individuals? How much should we be paid and in a way that we can pay appropriately across board throughout the entire country. Council also looked into the issue of residency programme and decided that the training should last for a period of fixed term of seven years and after training for seven years, individuals should exit the programme so that others can come into the programme.
"Council had decided to look into the issue of private practice by medical doctors in the public sector and a committee has been set up to look extensively into that issue because we want to resolve the issue of what do the laws of the land say and what does the rule of professional ethics say? The law of the land does not allow any public officer to do anything other than farming. So that committee will make appropriate recommendations to government on this important issue which is of considerable interest to a number of Nigerians.
"In addition to that, we will also look at the Yayale Ahmed report which tried to look into relationships between professional groups in the public sector and the office of the SGF has been mandated to forward the white paper on the Yayale Ahmed report to FEC so that once and for all, government can restore harmony to the health sector," he added.