The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has expressed surprise over the threat by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, to outlaw warning strikes and to invoke the clause of “no work no pay” in the event of the use of warning strikes in the future as according to him, warning strike is not known to labour laws.
The General Secretary of the NLC, Mr. Peter Ozo-Eson, in a statement yesterday, maintained that warning strike had been one of the bargaining strategies of labour unions across the world.
“We were taken aback by the claims of the minister. Accordingly, we find it necessary to state that whether warning strike is in the corpus of the Nigerian labour laws or not, unions over the years across the world use warning strikes as a bargaining device to bring to the negotiating table, recalcitrant employers or social partners,” Ozo-Eson.
In other words, he said it was a tradition that has acquired the force of law.
He stressed that the efficacy of warning strikes cannot be in doubt as it is the reason why the government, led by the minister himself is now negotiating with Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) executives.
The union Secretary, reminded the minister that in the annals of labour history, warning strikes have had the distinguishing feature of saving the parties to disputes the rigours, costs and pains of full-blown strikes.
“This, the minister, a cerebral mind a former union leader, very well knows.
“Why then would the minister be canvassing a position that is extreme and intolerant of further dialogue which is the mainstay of labour-government relations,” he stated.
Ozo-Eson cautioned against the hasty resort to legalese as a basis for conflict resolution, saying that it would not be helpful.
He contended that if strikes are guaranteed by the law, labour does not see how warning strikes can be illegal.
“We do not intend to resort to unnecessary pedantism, but quite often, a literal interpretation of the law falls short of the intendment of the law,” he added.
He insisted that warning strikes would continue to be part of our engagement with all employers including government, when necessary; saying, “we believe we are deserving of commendation for this thoughtfulness/ discretion and not vilification.”