The details of the meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, have emerged.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after the meeting. the minister said he met with the President to discuss labour related matters especially the threat by the university non-academic unions of universities’ workers to embark on strike.
The minister said the President frowned at the planned strike to be embarked on by non-academic unions of universities.
He said that it would be illegal for the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU), the Non-Academic Staff to Universities (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), to embark on the industrial action.
Ngige opined that going ahead to effect the strike while negotiations are still ongoing would be a breach of local and international Labour codes and statutes.
He pleaded with the unions to allow three months of grace for the Federal Government to forward the 2021 Supplementary Budget to the National Assembly to cover arrears of the minimum wage that have not been paid to them.
“It will be preposterous for them to say that as we wait to negotiate further, they are invoking a strike by midnight today, that will be against the labour statute of both the International Labour Organisation and the Nigeria Trade Dispute Act and we will frown at it if they ever go that route,” he said.
Also asked if the government would invoke no work no pay policy should the workers go ahead with the strike, Ngige said: “I don’t want to go to that area because I presume that good judgment will prevail.
“The leaders of SSANU and NASU are very knowledgeable and very experienced in labour matters. The General Secretary of NASU, Prince Peters Adeyemi and the SSANU President, Comrade Mohammed Haruna Ibrahim, they are experienced labour leaders, they know they will not go that route, they know if they go that route it will be an illegal strike.
“They know that if they go that route, yes they also have a right to strike and the employer also has the right to some reliefs.
“They also know that when they go that route it means that they have broken down the negotiation in my place that they are not listening.
“The labour laws also say what I can do if I find that I can’t manage the situation. The law says that I can refer those disputes upwards starting from industrial arbitration panel to the National Industrial Court, so these are the options that are left.
“I am very optimistic that if they give us three months, the Finance Minister will do the needful.”