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NLC vows to resist Bill to outlaw strike in health sector

By Dan-Maryam Zayamu

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has vowed that it will take all the needed steps to ensure that the bill that is aimed at ensuring health sector workers do not go on strike does not see the light of the day.
The NLC President, Ayuba Waba, disclosed this while responding to questions from journalists in Abuja, Monday.
The bill which is titled “An Act to amend the Trade Disputes Act cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 to prohibit medical practitioners in the employment of Federal, State and local governments (as employees in the essential service sector) from embarking on strike and to accelerate administrative and Judicial proceedings in the determination of Trade Disputes involving them and related matters,” is sponsored by Rep Simon Chukwuemeka Atigwe (PDP, Enugu).
The House of Representatives has concluded plans to, on resumption from its Christmas and New Year break, consider a bill that will outlaw strike for medical practitioners in the employment of the federal, state and local governments.
The bill has already scaled first reading in the House and is expected to be listed for second reading before it goes for public hearing.
Waba,  insisted that if the House of Representatives insists on passing the bill, the labour movement may mobilise protest to the constituency and the door step of the sponsor of the bill.
He charged the lawmakers to face and make laws on more pressing national issues that are affecting Nigerians rather than making efforts to gag the health workers from exercising their fundamental rights provided by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
“I think there are many things before them that they need to make laws for not to try to undermine the right of workers. Poverty is everywhere in the country and where there is poverty, it is a threat to prosperity.
“I think there are many things they ought to have focus their attention not this one that is about fundamental principle that is supposed to be respected and also place an obligation for Nigeria to respect those provisions.
“We are going to engage the lawmakers to see if they will be honourable to respect the right of workers. Every person has a right and these are fundamental rights provided by the ILO convention.
“You cant tie my hands even when my wages have not been paid and you say don’t go on strike. If you have a provision of no work no pay then you have a provision also if there is no pay, there should be no work.
“Those are the fundamentals globally. People just assume that a worker is a slave. No, every worker has a right in the ILO status. Whether he is a daily, weekly, monthly or a contract worker, he has a right.”
 On what the NLC will do if the lawmakers insist on passing the bill into law, Waba said: “We have three levels of engagement. We are going to engage them in a very coherent manner. Secondly, we know that if such bills are promulgated, the president also can decline assent if actually they contravene provisions of an international legislation. Basically, we will take this campaign to their door step.
“I remember about 10 years ago, a senator proposed a bill which was aimed at infringing on the right of workers, we so much organised to his door step up to his constituency and I remember he has not recovered from that incident. I personally led the protest and delivered the protest letter to his house.
“We have some levels of action which we will try to do. First is to lobby which is a process of making laws, after that, except they are pushed from a different angle, we don’t want to get to a stage where we will start mobilizing workers against them, naming and shaming them,” Waba said.
While saying that the effort to make a law that will prevent health sector workers from embarking on strike is a misplaced priority, the NLC President said: “To come out and say that you want to put a law in place to prohibit strike in the health sector is laughable. You can’t tie the health workers hand not to demand for his right. Strike is not tea party. Strike is always a matter of last resort. And where industrial relation is working optimally, strikes can be avoided.
“I am sure that those who are actually proposing those bills may not be aware of the provisions of those laws and those laws are very explicit.
“The global practice is that even if there are strike in other establishments, there is a provision to negotiate services that can be rendered and that has been done overtime.
“Clearly is a misplaced priority  for any legislator without requisite knowledge of the global standard set by ILO to come and say you want to propose a law to prevent strike.
“You can make a law that the application may be difficult because you cannot tie the hands of a worker where his economic and social rights are being in pinched upon, especially where he is not paid and you said he cannot exercise his fundamental right as guaranteed by the ILO convention on freedom of association.
“These conventions (87 and 98) have been rectified by Nigeria in October 1960 by a democratic government. Why do you think  till date nobody has tempered with the provision.
“Why are these brand of politicians coming to temper with the fundamental rights of workers. What has changed, nothing. If under a democratic government Nigeria ratified these conventions as a member country and they have been practiced and they are in our body of laws, it is then laughable for anybody to try to gag workers from their right that is fundamental.
“As I said earlier, it is only on rare circumstance that the health sector in entity will go on strike. There are provisions for mediation and arbitration which also has been followed from time immemorial. This is our position.
“I am going to engage these law makers, I am sure they are not aware of these principles that said even where you make laws and it infringed on the right of the worker, the ILO will always call on the government and the resident authorities to bring the law to conform with the freedom of association. ”

Written by ExpressDay

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