By Henry Okonkwo
The Federal Government has inaugurated a 10-man committee to resolve the lingering dispute between the Kaduna State government and the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC.
Mr Charles Akpan, Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, made this known in a statement issued on Saturday in Abuja.
Akpan said the committee which was inaugurated by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, would be headed by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr Peter-Yemira Tarfa.
Ngige named Secretary to Kaduna State Government (SSG), Balarabe Lawal and Deputy National President, NLC, Najim Hashim as Co-chairmen of the committee and Director, Trade Union Services and Industrial Relations, ministry of labour and employment, Mrs O. U. Akpan, as Secretary.
He urged members of the committee to meet the expectations of President Muhammadu Buhari in ensuring that industrial peace returned to the state.
Ngige recalled that the federal government had apprehended the strike initiated by NLC in the state in May, with parties signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to restore peace.
He said that the intervening circumstances had made the reconstitution of the committee inevitable.
Ngige, who acknowledged that the issues in contention bordered essentially on trade disputes, gave the committee 21 days to submit its report.
He urged the committee to resolve the issues holistically and be guided by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as well as the country’s labour laws.
Ngige noted that downsizing or rightsizing of the workforce in any organisation, government or private sector was a redundancy issue, which must be subjected to the principles spelt out in the Trade Disputes Act, Laws of the Federation, 2004, Cap L1.
He said, “The law says in Section 20(A) that: ‘in the event of redundancy, every employer shall inform the trade unions or representatives of workers concerned of the reasons for or the extent of their anticipated redundancy.
“Section 20(B) also says that the principles of ‘last-in, first-out shall be adopted in the discharge of the category of workers affected, subject to all factors of relative merit including skill, ability and any reliability.”
“So, in applying this, we must subject it to the relativity of merit, skill, ability and reliability. If somebody has a forged certificate, he should be asked to go because he didn’t merit the job in the first instance.
“If you go to a nursing home and find somebody working in the ward with a Bachelor’s degree in History, he stands disqualified because he doesn’t have the skill in the first place.
“He has to go. So, these are the qualifications that must be noted in this principle of last in, first out. It is not absolute. It has exceptions and qualifications.”
Ngige added that an employer had the right to reduce the staff strength of his organisation but he is bound by law to negotiate redundancy payment with any discharged worker.
Also speaking, Kaduna State SSG, assured the state government’s commitment to the restoration of industrial harmony, adding that the government was not at war with labour.
In his remarks, NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, said that labour was committed to the resolution of the impasse in the state.
“I pray that it will be the last dispute between labour and the Kaduna State government. This is a labour matter that can be resolved and should be resolved,” he said.