PRESS STATEMENT ON ANTI-LABOUR ACTIVITIES IN PRIVATIZED PHCN ENTITIES
The anti-labour activities in the privatized PHCN entities (the DISCOs and GENCOs) are reprehensible and condemnable on the ground of being unconstitutional. All well-meaning Nigerians should therefore support the demands of workers in the electricity subsector who are fighting for the following:
1. The right of trade union membership of staff in the privatized entities.
2. Recall of all labour leaders disengaged as a result of transfer of ownership of PHCN assets in accordance with the Agreement signed with the Federal Government on 13 January 2014.
3. Payment of full severance benefits to the disengaged former workers of PHCN.
WORKERS HAVE THE RIGHT TO UNIONISE UNDER NATIONAL LAWS AND INTERNATIONAL TREATIES
Under the following national laws and international treaties, all workers, without discrimination, have the unqualified and inalienable right to form or join associations, including trade unions, for the protection and advancement of their interests. All employers, regardless of sector of operation, public or private, have an obligation to be law-abiding and give effect to the following legally binding provisions in national and international law relating to freedom of association:
Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, provides:
'40. Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests'
Article 10 of the African Charter on Human & People's Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act CAP A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Article 10 (1) states that:
'Every individual shall have the right to free association provided that he abides by the law'
Article 10 (2) of this Act actually provides that:
'no one may be compelled to join an association' or not to join an association.
The Supreme Court in Abacha v. Fawehinmi (2000) 6 NWLR (Pt. 600) 228 has held that
'the African Charter which is incorporated into our municipal law becomes binding and our courts must give effect to it like all other laws falling within the judicial powers of the court'
The Labour Act in Section 9 (6) provides that:
'No contract shall:
(a) make it a condition of employment that a worker shall or shall not join a trade union or shall or shall not relinquish membership of a trade union; '
(b) cause the dismissal of, or otherwise prejudice, a worker (i) by reason of trade union membership, or '
Section 12 sub section (4) of the Trade Unions Act provides that no one may be compelled to join or not to join a union, as follows:
'12. (4) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Act, membership of a trade union by employees shall be voluntary and no employee shall be forced to join any trade union or be victimised for refusing to join or remain a member.'
International Labour Organisation Convention No. 87 of 1948 on Freedom of Association and the Right to Organise, in its Article 2 provides that:
'Workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and, subject only to the rules of the organisation concerned, to join organisations of their own choosing without previous authorization'
Article 20 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) stipulates that:
'(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.'
And Article 23 (4) of the same Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) provides that:
'(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.'
Article 2 of the ILO Convention No. 87 of 1948 guarantees freedom of Association thus:
'Workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and, subject only to the rules of the organisation concerned, to join organisations of their own choosing without previous authorization'.
Article 8 (1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1976) equally protects freedom of association, as follows:
'8(1). The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure:
(a) The right of everyone to form trade unions and join the trade union of his choice, subject only to the rules of the organization concerned, for the promotion and protection of his economic and social interests. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public order or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others;'
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976) in its Article 22 (1) guarantees freedom of association thus:
'22 (1). Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.'
On the basis of the foregoing national laws and international treaties binding on the Nigerian governments and all corporate bodies operating in Nigeria, we declare unflinching support for the right of electricity workers to unionize, whether in the privatized or non-privatized entities in the power subsector.
Femi Aborisade, Esq.
28 April 2014.