Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and Trade Union Congress, TUC, on Saturday threatened to shut down Kaduna State should Governor Nasir El-Rufai fail to expunge the portion of the verification form that states that civil servants should decide whether or not they want to belong to labour union in the new state government’s rules of engagement.
According to the Kaduna State Chapter of NLC, the state government had issued out a form , titled ‘Special Exercise on Staff Verification’ , where it requested all workers on its payroll to either fill ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, for membership of union.
Addressing a large crowd of workers that converged on the Kaduna NLC Secretariat Saturday, the Chairman of TUC, Comrade Boiboi Kaigama and that of NLC Comrade Ayuba Waba in their separate speeches said no reasonable government will deny workers of their fundamental rights to belong to a union for protection of their rights.
The union chairmen both however, asked Governor El-Rufai to expunge the portion of the verification form that appeared to be anti- labour union or face very strong labour actions that will ground the state.
Waba, who said no worker has right to opt out of union and enjoy minimum wage, emphasised that the 1948 UN Charter gives rights to workers to belong to trade union of their choice.
“If workers have gone through several verification exercises, why this one again? Any verification form issued without the consent of either labour or government is unacceptable.”
While urging all labour leaders in the state to call an emergency meeting to discuss and decide the next line of action before Wednesday when the joint labour will meet to take a final decision, Waba ordered all civil servants in the state not fill any El-Rufai anti-labour forms, stressing, “We must continue to insist that workers must work freely without intimidation.”
Similarly, President of TUC , Boiboi who said time has come to tell government that workers are the owners of the land, said, “We hold El-Rufai in high esteem, but it is sad that someone that was an executive council member, does not know that union membership is not the issue of government.
“Law says deduct and remit to union secretariat, but we have noticed that politicians see workers as slaves and we are prepared to go all out to fight them.”
Boiboi also said “the position of TUC is that the clause should be removed. I have never seen where verification is done without union representatives. There must be an agreement between workers, state government and union.”
According to him, trade union must be independent and that is what the law states.
Earlier in his speech , Kaduna NLC Chairman, Comrade Adamu Ango said government of Kaduna state has pushed labour unions to the wall and they are prepared to fight back.
“It is an attempt to outlaw unionism that forms were distributed to workers asking them whether or not they want will belong to union or not,” he stated.
In a swift reaction, the state government in a press release signed by Special Assistant on Media and Publicity said the government respects the right of workers to freedom of association.
According to the statement, the government considered that it is democratic that those who wish to exercise this right or not should indicate in writing.
It further reads: “The leadership of the Kaduna State NLC recently had a meeting with the Governor at which they expressed their objection to making union membership voluntary and its implications for check-off dues.
“Although the law obliges employers to collect dues on behalf of unions, it is not at all clear if the law makes union membership compulsory. This situation arose after some local governments had their accounts garnisheed by banks because of loans they guaranteed for some labour unions.
“The Kaduna State Government made it clear that it would make it possible for each of its workers to indicate if they wanted to be union members. The NLC expressed the view that union membership is automatic under our federal labour laws and appeared to doubt whether the numbers opting to remain will be significant if given the option to opt out.
“It was agreed that the NLC will submit a position paper on the two issues. Both sides also agreed to review the union membership issue once the forms are returned by workers and the data compiled. The submission of the NLC is being awaited to advance the outcome of a meeting that was held in an atmosphere of cordiality and mutual respect.”