The Federal Government has warned labour unions that unlawful picketing will attract the full weight of the law.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige said this in a statement issued by Mr Charles Akpan, the Deputy Director of Press and Public Relations in the ministry on Tuesday in Abuja.
According to Ngige, the government will not condone further hooliganism in the disguise of trade unionism.
He said the Federal Government would no longer fold its hands while what ought to be a peaceful agitation by unions crossed the boundary of lawfulness as stated in Section 43 of the Trade Unions Act. Cap.T14,LFN,2004.
“The Federal Government has watched as the offices of the Minister, Minister of State and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Investment were locked for days by agitating workers unions.
”Thus, preventing other workers and officers of government from carrying out their lawful duties.
”Similarly, the Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre has been under lock and key since Nov.15, preventing the newly appointed Director-General of the agency, Adesoji Eniade from assuming office.
“We, therefore, wish to strongly warn that the President and Commander-in-Chief are the Chief Executive of the Federation in line with Section 5 (1) of the Constitution and is solely conferred with the powers of appointment into public offices such as Permanent Secretaries, Directors Generals, however, designated.
”This is, as clearly contained in Section 171(d) of the 1999 constitution. He does not share such power with any other person.
”It is clearly therefore ultra vires for public servants in the name of unionism to attempt to dictate to the President over the exercise of its constitutional powers on appointments.
“Hence, the gale of irrational and unlawful picketing by the unions in the Ministry of Trade and Investment and that of the Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre run counter to sections 87 and 89 of the ILO principles and the Trade Disputes Act, 2004, ” he said.
He added that for the avoidance of any doubt, disruptive picketing which barricades entrances to workplaces, premises, locking up offices, and prevents workers who wish to continue working, are a direct threat to public order, hence illegal.
He noted that the fact that the Federal Government allowed the unions time to come to terms with the illegality they embarked upon and doing the right thing, “does not constitute a license for further illegality”.
“We, therefore, state clearly here that the principle of non -interference in Article 3, C87 of the ILO Convention is that the employer interferes not in the affairs of the union.
”Reciprocally, employees/ workers are not to interfere in the business of their employers; on how they run their business which in this case is government. They, therefore, have no say in whom is appointed or deployed at any given time.
“ Workers in the Citizen and Leadership Centre have therefore been given the next 24 hours to open the officers they locked up, especially that of the newly appointed Director-General of the agency, who is the new bonafide Head of the Centre, having been appointed by the President on Oct. 3.
“We seize the opportunity to call on the leadership of both the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to educate their members on their rights and privileges and to call them to order,” he said.
He said that government would bring the full weight of the law on those who continued to cross the line in the disguise of unionism.
“We further warn that unruly behaviours emanating in the course of a strike in the guise of picketing by employers may be subjected to the relevant sections of the Criminal Code and punishment dispensed accordingly. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse,” Ngige said.