NEW LAW ON LABOUR STRIKES DIVIDES SENATE
Senators were sharply divided over a new law, which seeks to 'democratise' the process of embarking on strikes in the country.
But for the quick intervention of the Senate President, David Mark, some senators were ready to 'kill' a proposed legislation, which would compel organized labour including the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to go for a ballot before calling workers out on a strike.
Rather than put the question after debate by those who supported and opposed the Bill, Mark opted to suspend discussions till another legislative day.
The proposals were contained in a Bill for an Act to Further Amend the Trade Unions Act, Cap. T14 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 as amended in 2005 to make provisions for ballot as a requirement before any action taken by trade unions and for other matters connected therewith.
Chairman of the Water Resources Committee, Heineken October Lokpobiri was the sponsor of the Bill.
Leading the debate, Lokpobiri said it was not meant to stop the organized labour from embarking on legal strikes, but to ensure a more democratic and orderly manner for declaration of strike.
But Chairman of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Committee, who is also a former national chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Smart Adeyemi dismissed insinuations that organized labour 'will go on strike without majority support of members.
'This Bill is uncalled for; this is an exercise in futility because before labour goes on strike, representatives of all chapters are called to take a decision; it will be wrong of us to question the way the labour conduct their affairs.
'With all due respect, I think this Bill should just be thrown outside.'
Senator Joshua Dariye equally opposed the new law. He argued that with the benefit of his experience as a former governor of Plateau State, 'if you are familiar with operations of trade unions, this Bill would not have come up at all.
'The labour unions are the safety valves of the society; these are very civilised people, very professional. This Bill is an invitation to anarchy. If you subject this Bill to public hearing, I can assure you that it will not cross the watershed.'
On his part, former Anambra State governor, Senator Chris Ngige observed that, 'this Bill is trying to reinvent the wheel. When you juxtapose the Trade Union Bill against happenings in the union, you will hail them. The unions are the bastions of democracy.
'These unions have their own constitution which stipulates conditions for going on strike; this Bill is dead on arrival because, the sponsor of this bill is my friend, I wish to advice that he withdraws the bill.
'This particular Bill is anti-people, anti-Nigerian people, anti-labour, anti-Senate and even anti the National Assembly; this Bill is not for us, let it go away.'