John Shiklam in Kaduna
The controversy between the labour unions and the Kaduna State Government over the last phase of the verification exercise has taken a new dimension with the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) issuing a seven-day ultimatum to the government to stop the exercise or face a show down.
But the state government maintained that as employer, it had the right to verify and authenticate its employees.
The government also dismissed insinuations that the exercise was aimed at denying workers the right to belong to the unions.
The unions are particularly opposed to a clause in the form, asking workers whether they will want to belong to a labour union.
Addressing a large crowd of workers after their meeting at the NLC Secretariat in Kaduna Wednesday, the President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Waba and his TUC counterpart, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama said workers would be mobilised to resist any plan to deny them the right to remain members of the union.
The union leaders also asked the state government to pay the backlogs of salaries being owed workers in the state or organised labour unions and civil society organisation will shut down government offices.
The union leaders declared that any governor who does not believe in labour unions and welfare of workers would be resisted and voted in 2019.
However, while reacting to the ultimatum, a senior government official who pleaded anonymity said the state government maintained that verification is anti labour is totally untrue.
According to him, “Their claim that the verification is anti-labour is totally untrue. The trade union act says trade union membership is voluntarily. So we have not taken any anti union decision.
“It is legitimate for an employer to verify his employees, there is nothing illegal about it.
“This is the final phase of the verification. What they are complaining about is not about the verification, they are complaining about the clause on union membership in the form that workers are to fill.”
He added further that the unions are just scared that, given the option, workers may not want to belong to the union, stressing that the government was not in conflict with the labour unions.
He said: “The verification is aimed at ensuring that the government pays only those who are working for the state. We inherited a wage bill of N2.7 billion, if we had not embark on the verification, how could we have cope? Federal Allocation to Kaduna state in the past few months is about N2.8 billion.
“So verification is not an industrial relation issue. The governor is not trying to stop any worker from belonging to the labour union.
He disclosed that in Jaba local government, Guaranty Trust Bank, garnisheed the council’s account because of the loan that was taken by the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) which was guaranteed by officials of the local government.
“The loan went bad and this government had to negotiate with the bank. Up to now, there is no explanation from NULGE on how they got
“The local government to guarantee the loan. The law of this country allows employers to deduct union dues on behave of the unions. But workers in this country have not also been given the right to choose whether they want to belong to a union. But honestly we don’t have any issue with union membership,” he said.