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Progressive Governors Forum D-G calls for reorientation of labour unions

Dr Salihu Lukman, Director-General, Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), has called for a reorientation of labour unions to ensure effective negotiations between them and employers of their members.

PGF members are governors elected on the platform of the APC.

Lukman said in a statement in Abuja on Sunday that the ongoing nationwide strike by members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and other health workers, for instance, was blamable on the lack of institutional capacity

He said the strike was also blamable on the inability of labour unions to effectively negotiate with employers and with governments.

He expressed regret at frequent strikes by healthcare workers which, he said, had led to preventable, unfortunate and avoidable deaths.

Lukman noted that the most noticeable factor when union leaders, including those of NARD and the NLC, negotiated with employers was the display of raw power.

Dr Salihu Lukman,

The negotiations, he further noted, were often devoid of any empirical or conceptual evidence highlighting a vision of how the problems could be solved.

He stressed that rather than providing a roadmap of how problems could be solved, ego and loud voices of supposed opponents had become the main features.

“Any contrary opinion is condemned and dismissed; this is the new face of workers leaders’ in Nigeria.

“Street protests and strikes ahead of any negotiations are now very common. There is a need to reorient the practice of labour relations in Nigeria. A situation where because citizens are angry with government and political leaders, essential services are withdrawn and lives of citizens cheaply sacrificed must stop,’’ he stressed.

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Lukman said it was frustrating when political appointees, such as ministers were unable to proactively pre-empt strikes.

Lukman said also that all stakeholders must as a matter of urgency lock themselves in the most qualitative form of negotiations with workers in the health sector.

This, he said, was critical to restoring some minimum standards in the sector and not simply about negotiating terms and conditions of services of health workers.

He said Nigerians must also appeal to the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria to take all necessary measures to restore the ethical conduct of all its registered members.

“A situation where conducts of medical practitioners, being also members of trade unions, conflict with the Code of Ethics they swore to, must be resolved in favour of protecting the lives of Nigerians.

“Under no circumstance should a registered medical doctor who is a member of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria conduct himself or herself in manners that neglected the primary responsibility of attending to sick persons.

“Labour issues. including negotiations for wages and terms of conditions of services and resolving challenges should be moved to the concurrent list in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended,’’ he said.

Lukman explained that a situation where terms agreed with the Federal Government was used by state governments’ employees would always create problems of implementation.

He advised that state governments should be more creative to introduce new incentives, which were not necessarily monetary, but perhaps having higher monetary values than what obtains in federal establishments.

According to him, there is a wide scope for initiatives beyond the question of the monetary value of employment.

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He added that given the cost to human life from strikes by health workers, it was quite alarming that strikes in a sector as important as health would be taking place at all.

“This is a sector that by every standard should be classified as essential based on which there should be special legal restrictions regarding labour actions such as strikes.

“A major challenge of Nigeria’s labour relations may have to do with issues of over-centralization and institutional capacity to manage, regulate and facilitate negotiations and agreements.

“The issue of over-centralization will continue to create challenges largely because negotiations between workers’ and employers’ organizations are no longer informed by the empirical reality of resources available,’’ Lukman stated.

He noted that the five-day warning strike by the NLC against the Kaduna State government in May over allegations of wrongful dismissals of employees of the state government could have been averted.

This, he said, was especially if the state’s Ministry of Labour had enforced provisions of the relevant laws to compel resumption of negotiations between unions and employers, including the government.

He said the current indefinite strike by NARD members might also have been averted if there was a proper meeting between the Ministry of Labour and Productivity and parties to the disputes before the expiration of the ultimatum.

The NARD ongoing indefinite nationwide strike is to demand for improved conditions and payment of unpaid salaries by some state governments.

The strike is also to protest the failure to domesticate the Medical Residency Training Act 2017 in states, among others. (NAN)

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