INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS AND ORGANISING DEPARTMENT
This report focuses on activities of the department for the last 6 months and will cover activities before the lockdown and some post-COVID 19 cases as well as recommendations majorly from interactive meetings with the Secretariat and the Organising Committee.
The Secretariat anchored a virtual meeting in May with the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) to discuss COVID 19 and the industrial relations situation and health/safety as well as risk assessment in the aviation industry. The meeting had the past president of the union, Comrade Mohammed Safyianu present who gave useful insight and later materials on the international dimension in the aviation sector.
INTRA UNION LEADERSHIP CRISIS
The leadership crisis in the National Union of Posts and Telecommunications Employees (NUPTE) was amicably resolved after series of meetings thatculminated in the settlement midwifed by the Industrial Relations and Organising Committee on Tuesday 24 March 2020 at Congress headquarters in Abuja, chaired by the Committee’s Chairperson, Comrade Anthony Benjamin.
A communique was signed at the end of the meeting and to the best of our knowledge, the union has kept to the agreement reached.
The National Union of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employees NUFBTE has been having some disquiet regarding leadership tenure. This engendered some of its members to petition the National Assembly and some other institutions. Through the intervention of Congress President, it was agreed that the union should use its internal mechanism to resolve the issue. This culminated in a meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the union that was observed by Congress representative.
INTER UNION DISPUTES
The inter-union dispute being handled at the moment by the department is on the jurisdictional dispute between the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the National Union of Hotels and Personal Services Workers (NUHPSW) on organising of workers at Newrest ASL, a catering services company at the Murtala Mohamed International Airport, Lagos.
Meetings were held with the two unions separately while a joint meeting with both unions was to hold in the first week of July, 2020, but had to be postponed at the promptings of NUATE as the union’s General Secretary was indisposed. Another meeting will be scheduled soon.
Previously, there was an inter-union dispute between the National Union of Road Transport (NURTW) and Mines Workers Union (MWU) over jurisdictional scope on quarry sites. Though the issue was apprehended by the Ministry of Labour, both unions had agreed to Congress intervention. Given the incessant cases of jurisdictional scope and the intervention of third parties, the Congress was planning a meeting of the leadership of all unions to discuss the issue of jurisdictional scope before the COVID 19 pandemic.
INTERVENTION IN INDUSTRIAL CRISES
- The department initiated Congress’ interventions in the dispute between the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE) and the management of First Bank of Nigeria Plc over the disengagement of outsourced workers in the bank. Congress President had compelled the intervention of the Minister for Labour who set up a committee to look at specific cases of disengagement. Through that process a policy guideline for industrial relations to cater for precarious workers in the banking and financial sector would be evolved as in the oil and gas sector. The committee had done some work before its activities were stalled by the COVID 19 and lockdown.
- In the course of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant lockdown, some contract staff of Access Bank were disengaged massively across the country. We have written to NUBIFIE to intervene while we assured the union of Congress’ readiness to give the union all the required back up should the union require the centre’s solidarity. We are yet to receive any feedback from the union.
- The Abia State Council of Congress has reported a crisis between affiliates, especially in the education sector and the State Polytechnic, Aba and Arochukwu College of Education, Abia state.
A meeting was held at the Secretariat with representatives of the national secretariats of NASU and ASUP on the issues. Congress leadership was to engage with the Abia State Government, but the lockdown over the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a delay.
- Congress has concluded the affiliation of the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers to Congress.
An initial training programme to strengthen the association and inculcate appropriate trade union orientations and operational modules have been conducted for leadership of the association, which included the state and market-based leaderships with support from the Solidarity Centre. More discussions are ongoing on assisting the union establish basic structures for administration and organising with the Solidarity Center.
2. Together with the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), the process of concluding the unionisation of workers at the National Judicial Institute, Abuja, has commenced.
3.The private security operators association, which has accepted to affiliate with the National Union of Hotel and Personal Services Workers had approached Congress to assist in a smooth affiliation with the union. The workers already have an association, which was their independent initiative, and discussions between Congress and the union is yet to commence.
4.Congress is currently working with NUPTE to organise workers at Zenith Carex, a courier services company into the union. Despite initial favourable discussions between the union and the company on the issue, the company has turned around to intimidate workers willing to join the union. Picketing of the company was being planned before the lockdown.
5.Before the lockdown, one of the issues before the Congress was the implementation of the new National Minimum wage at the state level. Before the lockdown, negotiations between NLC state councils and their various state governments were either concluded or at different stages of negotiations and implementation.
- Reports from the states indicate that some state governments had ostensibly used the pandemic to cut salary of workers. Bauchi and Niger did so, but have rescinded their actions. Kano state, which cut salaries in May has also had a rethink. Unions are currently embroiled in negotiations on consequential adjustment on the minimum wage for workers on Grade level 07 and above.
In the aviation sector, with both regular local and international flights grounded, several workers have been sent on furlough with arbitrary reduction in salaries for those still working. While airlines retained about 20% of staff on slashed salaries, all registered travel agencies and other businesses operating at the airports have sent their entire workers on compulsory leave. To deter arbitrary sack of its members without recourse to negotiations with the union, workers of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) on 7th June prevented a Turkish airline from offloading its cargo at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, for unilaterally sacking 4 of its Nigerian workers by the airline. For 3 grueling hours the workers staged a protest at the airport and the airline was compelled to fly back to Istanbul without offloading its cargo.
Also, 4 major unions in the aviation sector late May this year had resisted an attempt by government agencies, namely the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the National Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), to cut salaries of workers. The unions gave a 2-week ultimatum to the agencies to rescind their decision and pay full salaries to workers or face a nationwide industrial action.
The aviation unions include, the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSAN), Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Service Employees (AUPCTRE).
Apparently responding to prevailing restiveness of unions and pressure from chieftains of the aviation industry, the Federal government has recently pledged N27billion bailout to the local aviation sector to cushion losses within the period of lockdown.
One of the companies that did not comply with the directive to close shop during the lockdown has been the Dangote Group of companies at its Lekki project site in Lagos. The company is owned by acclaimed richest man in Africa, Mr. Aliko Dangote.
Reacting to this development, the National Union of Civil Engineering Construction, Furniture and Wood Workers (NUCECFWW) strongly condemned the company for flouting the directives of the Federal Government and exposing many workers comprising Indians and Nigerians to the risk of being infected by the virus. It claimed that one of the Indians has been reported to have shown symptoms of the virus, raising concerns of its spread among workers.