Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige has described as “thoughtless and irresponsible”, the directive issued by the Director-General of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) Dr. Segun Osinowo, to management of banks to disregard the directive of the federal government that they should shelve on-going retrenchment of workers.
Oshinowo reportedly said at the weekend that the labour law did not empower the minister to issue such a directive, which he considered uninformed and populist adding that the minister seems not to have shown understanding of the fundamentals of industrial relations and labour laws and thus, has “acted ultra vires,”
He also said the labour laws envisaged redundancy situation and, therefore, made provisions in Section 20 of the Labour Act to guide the actions of the parties in the event of retrenchment or redundancy.
But in a statement Sunday, the minister insisted that government directives to the banks are premised on set rules of engagement.
“Section 20 of the labour act is abundantly clear on redundancy and steps expected of institutions to safeguard not just their interests and that of their employees but also that of government who is the chief guarantor of industrial harmony”, he stressed.
The statement signed by Ministry spokesman Samuel Olowookere said the reaction of Dr. Oshinowo to government directives pending the outcome of a conciliatory meeting and stakeholder’s summit billed for the first week of July “is not only irresponsible and thoughtless but a bland knee jerk reaction borne out of self service and unpatriotism”.
The statement said any reaction that tends to hamstrung the intervention by government in any sector of the economy in the overall interest of all Nigerians, by invoking a sudden rigid stricture to free market rules, is an overarching absurdity
”If government has been intervening, and shall continue to intervene to save banks and allied institutions, even the aviation industry, in times of distress without allowing the free market rules to solely reign, therefore forcing some of them to go under, the same government can equally make minimum demands from this private sector in the overall interests of the nation. Our authority in this instance is not only statutory but also moral .
”Therefore, we wish to state clearly once more, that the intention of government rather than being punitive on these financial institutions is to safeguard national interest by staving off unnecessary job losses and hence avert its real and potential threat to the already fragile security situation and stability of the nation.
”Government intention is guided by the fact that there are clear alternatives to the abrasive lay off of thousands of workers especially in the background of non-compliance with laid down rules on redundancy as clearly enunciated in our labour laws.
“The labour unions in the financial has brought forward, very strong evidence that thousands of workers laid off last year in a similar excercise are yet to receive their negotiated benefits”, the minister stated.