By Amechi Obiakpu
The National Union of Banks, Insurance and other Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE) has been asked to observe the rules and principles of Industrial Relations in Nigeria while seeking justice for their cause.
The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) made the statement against the backdrop of the planned picketing of select banks by the bankers’ union. While acknowledging the right of the bankers’ employees to express their dissatisfaction over the actions of their employers, NECA said in a statement made available to News Express that such action should not impinge on the right of the enterprise to conduct its business.
Reacting to the planned picketing by the union, Olusegun Oshinowo, the Director-General of NECA, stated: “There are limits to the right of picket and if the Union should cross the line by encroaching on the rights of other actors in the economy, that would amount to criminality for which we expect the Police to arraign the offenders before the appropriate court.”
Oshinowo noted that the union’s action is being emboldened by the ill-conceived recent pronouncement and directive by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, on retrenchment in the banking sector, which infringed on the rights and prerogatives of Employers in Nigeria.
NECA had affirmed that the labour law recognises the right of employers to determine the manning level for their operations, without approval from the Ministry of Labour and Employment, while respecting the provision of Section 20 of the Labour Act, where and if a labour union exists in the organisation.
The NECA boss said: “It is most unfortunate that the Minister’s comment has been fuelling impunity and gross abuse of rules and principles of Industrial Relations in Nigeria. The law about dispute settlement is clear in Nigeria. If the Union has any issue with the action of the employer, it should seek recourse in the Industrial Court rather than take laws into its hands. We expect the Minister to call the Union to order and urge them to follow due process of the law in seeking justice for their cause.”
Oshinowo noted that the Oyo State Government had demonstrated a worthy example of what the authority should do in the event of unlawful picketing and strike by arraigning before the court Trade Unionists that had breached their Union immunity in the course of strike/picketing.
According to him, the right to strike/picket or Union immunity is not a license for impunity and criminality.
Oshinowo calls on the government to instill sanity into the industrial relations system, which according to him is currently in a state of rot, by insisting that the Union conducts its affair within the context of the law, particularly the dispute settlement procedure, which actually forbids strike and picketing until the process has been given a chance to resolve issues in dispute.
He said: “If the government fails to compel the Union to respect the labour laws and protect business from the disruptive action of an illegal picket, the employer will take government’s indifference as a signal that the government is least concerned about reviving our flagging economy.”
NECA according to Oshinowo will ensure that any employer that is conducting retrenchment meets with appropriate body in the work place including the Union, where one exists, and that the employer pays redundancy benefits to affected employees.
“Any employee who has suffered redundancy and who was not paid his or her benefits by the employer should contact NECA,” Oshinowo added