Labour Crisis deepens; NLC, TUC plot against registration of ULC

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) have joined forces to ensure that the United Labour Congress; currently seeking registration as the third labour centre in the country is not registered by the Federal Government.

Tribune Online exclusively gathered that the formidable force formed by the NLC and the TUC has explored the provisions of the laws, especially the extant labour law, to knock out every claim by the ULC, to secure registration.

Already, the NLC and TUC have jointly written the Federal Government, through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, warning of the consequence, if some officials of the ministry should collude with a “former unionist, now a politician,” to register ULC against the provisions of the laws.

Warning against its registration, the letter, which was exclusively released to Tribune Online, said the registration of ULC, as it is presently constituted will lead to anarchy.

“We also trust that your officers will do the right thing by denying registration of the phantom unions that our erstwhile colleagues are promoting,” the letter said.

The letter, titled: “Need to avert anarchy in the industrial relations system in the country: Mushroom /shell trade unions,” was written on 19 January, 2017 to the minister, received and stamped at his office on 20 January, 2017.

The letter was signed by the President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba and the President of TUC, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama.

The letter read: “We are constrained to bring to your attention the fact that haven failed in their bid to lead the NLC following the successful conduct of the rescheduled election at the 10th delegates conference of the congress in March, 2015, some of our colleagues have been making concerted efforts to destabilize the industrial relations scene in the country.

“This started with the effort to fractionalise the NLC which failed after almost two years of trying. In their desperation they have now purported to float a new trade union centre with the name United Labour Congress of Nigeria. In the last couple of months, they have collected forms for the registration of dozens of shell trade unions without membership.”

They said the project is being coordinated by a former trade unionist whose chamber is coordinating the efforts to register these mushroom unions, adding that the former unionists, now a politician, had in the past failed in her bid to be appointed general secretary of the NLC.

The letter listed what it called “shell unions” proposed to be registered along with the ULC to include: Nigeria Automobile Technician Union; Motor Mechanics and Technician Union of Nigeria; Association of Professional and Corporate Drivers of Nigeria; Association of Federal Universities Pensioners; Association of Hospitals and Administration Pharmacists of Nigeria; Road Transport and Allied Senior Staff Association of Nigeria;  National Union of Mass Transport Allied Workers; Creative Workers Union of Nigeria; Association of Retired Civil Servants of Nigeria; Judiciary Senior Staff Association of Nigeria; and Senior Staff Association of Medical Health and Allied Workers Union of Nigeria.

But the NLC and TUC said a cursory look at the list shows that these are areas that have been adequately covered by existing unions.

Comrades Wabba and Kaigama alleged that the names submitted as officials of the Senior Staff Association, especially the Judiciary Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, are fake, as they do not work in the judiciary.

They also said: “Attempting to float three or more unions in the road transport sector, with all the volatility in the sector can only heighten tension and promote anarchy in the sector.

“Similarly, the group wishes to float two additional pension unions in the universities and among retired civil servants. And yet, we all know that there is a vibrant pensioners union; that is the Nigeria Union of Pensioners NUP, with a retired public servant who has a PhD as president.”

The President of the ULC, Comrade Joe Ajaero and the Deputy President, Comrade Igwe Achese, had in different interviews told Tribune Online that the proposed labour centre has more than the required number of affiliates, which is 12, to get registration.

They stated that they had some unions who were formerly affiliated to the NLC and the TUC, who have now joined the new movement, while there are other registered trade unions who were not affiliated to any labour centre before who are now the affiliates of ULC.

Besides, Comrade Ajaero said some trade unions are currently undergoing the process of registration, who also belong to the ULC.

Ajaero said: “I am telling you, more than 12 unions left from the NLC, and I am telling you that unions from the TUC and unions that are not affiliated to any for now are into this. This is not a faction of NLC, there are unions from TUC, there are unions that are not affiliated to NLC and TUC and there are those unions from the NLC that pulled out, which I can count up to 12 or more. They now come together, to have a kind of mega arrangement to form this Centre.”

But citing the provisions of the law, the Trade Union Act, Wabba and Kaigama said the ULC is in the first place operating illegally, while the law forbid it from drawing its affiliate unions, from those already affiliated to existing labour centres, the NLC and the TUC.

The letter read: “One expects that people who operate at our level will know the relevant provisions of the Trade Union Act. The Trade Union Act CAP T14, LFN, 2004, Section 3(2) provides thus: ‘But no trade union shall be registered to represent workers or employers in a place where there already exist a trade union.’

“Similarly, the section on registration of trade unions, in Part 1, Section 2, is very explicit that unregistered trade unions and federations are prohibited from functioning. Under this section, a federation of trade unions shall not come into existence until it is registered.”

The letter added: “Furthermore, under the 2005 Amendment, the Section 34 of the Principal Act Amendment, it was also explicitly stated that a federation of trade unions may be registered if (a) 1. (b) ‘it is made up of 12 or more trade unions, none of which shall have been a member of another registered federation of trade unions.’ By the virtue of this provision, all NLC and TUC affiliates cannot jump ship to another federation.

“The promoters of the so called United Labour Congress, which your office had informed us has not been registered has been going about the airwaves and print/social media speaking as a trade union federation, and spreading mis-information and falsehood about the NLC especially, and our two centres in general. One such falsehood is the claim that the NLC is not a registered federation.”

They stated in the letter that the NLC was registered with a certificate signed by the then Registrar of Trade Unions on 15 August, 1978, adding that by its provisions, the March 2005 Trade Union Amendment Act, did not affect or deregister all registered trade unions and labour centre before it as erroneously stated by ULC leadership.

With the copy of the NLC registration certificate, attached, the letter read: “Again, perhaps our colleagues didn’t read the March 2005 Trade Union Amendment Act. The new Sub-section 3 of Section 34 of the Principal Act, as amended states: ‘The requirement for registration of trade unions or federation of trade unions introduced into the Principal Act by this Act, shall not apply to any of the unions which immediately before the coming into force of this Act, had been dully registered or deemed dully registered under this Act (as amended) and such trade unions or federation of trade unions shall, subject to the requirements introduced by this Act, continue to exist in accordance with the right attached to their registration as such, unless and until they are dissolved, amalgamated, judicially forfeited or cancelation of their registration certificate.’

“It is our belief that your office owes the Nigerian public and Nigerian workers a responsibility to clear the air, on the grandstanding of our colleagues. We also trust that your officers will do the right thing by denying registration of the phantom unions that our erstwhile colleagues are promoting.”

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