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Employers seek institutional reforms to forestall strikes


Decries lateness of govt official

THE institutionalization of procedural agreement that clearly spells out the rights and privileges of workers and obligations of employers would minimize incidences of industrial actions in the public sector, the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) has said.

Speaking on the sideline of a botched meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige in Abuja, the Director General of NECA, Olusegun Oshinowo decried the inability of the Minister to host the meeting after a two-hour delay.

Oshinowo said the association was worried about unabated strikes in the public sector, which should also be a worry to the Ministers and Minister of State for Labour and Employment as well as the entire ministry as the custodians of industrial relations in the country.

NECA team arrived at the ministry at about 1.50pm last Thursday for a meeting slated for 2pm but had to leave after the Minister failed to show up after two hours. The Minister, his Minister of State, James Ocholi, the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Clement Illoh and all the Directors in the ministry were held up at another meeting.

Oshinowo, who described the inability of any government official to attend to the team, explained that such an action could disrupt the harmonious relationship that has existed between the social partners.

The NECA Director General stressed the need to carry out a comparative analysis between the private and public sector in a bid to curb perennial strikes in the public sector.

“The private sector has a well-tested, age-long and well-structured collective bargaining process that is predicated on procedural agreement. The procedural agreement is clear about the rights of workers and that of the employer. Procedural agreement is also clear about issues that the unions can negotiate and which the employer can negotiate. It is also clear about how to settle differences, which could occur in the course of employer/worker relationship. Also, in the private sector, sanctity of collective agreement is respected, after parties have reached an agreement, they abide by the tenets of the agreement,”Oshinowo said.

As the custodian of social dialogue and collective bargaining infrastructure in Nigeria, he said the ministry must set up the capacity and mobilize the capacity to get various agencies of government to buy into the collective bargaining process and understand how to relate with the unions within the context of the law.

“We equally expect the ministry to mobilize its capacity to ensure that the unions in the public sector are well informed and empowered enough to be able to engage the ministries and agencies so that we can reduce incidences of strikes that have become the hallmark of the public sector,” he said.

He stated that the Minister of Labour and Employment must be at the vanguard of promoting a reform in the public sector that would enshrine the same structured processes in the private sector.

He hinted that the employers’ body supported the increment on electricity tariff because it is part of the reform in the sub-sector as a whole.

“What we should realize is that government did not wake up on the wrong side of the bed and decree an increment in the tariff. The whole price structure was part of the entire reform of the electricity sector. It is that reform that gave birth to the tariff.

What government is trying to do is to demonstrate courage in making sure that all actors that are involved in the reform stick to the spirit and letters of the reform including the increase the tariff as embedded in the entire reform,” he said

According to him, the increment again demonstrates why Nigerians must be ready to adhere strictly to the implementation of collective agreement.

Oshinowo stressed the need for electricity companies to deliver quality service to the consumer, saying, “we therefore, expect government to ensure that the regulators actually follow up on the actors to make sure they deliver value to the consumers.”

He also hinted that the team would return for the meeting when the Minister extend another invitation to them, adding, “we will wait on the Minister to call us back but whether we will have this kind of time to come back and have the same experience? We do not know. We understand that the Minister is having another meeting but that is not our making. This kind of attitude should be a part of the change mantra.”