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Socialist Democracy March 2004

 

TRADE UNIONS:

FIGHT OBASANJO’S ANTI-LABOUR BILL

President Obasanjo recently sent anti-labour bill to the National Assembly for passage into law. While the leadership of the National Assembly has continued to deny its existence, due to the widespread condemnation of the bill by the working people, trade unions, pro-democracy and labour activists, ironically, President Obasanjo has continued to defend it on national radio and TV programmes.

According to Obasanjo, the bill is not an attack on labour but meant to "democratise" the labour movement in line with so-called prevailing national democratic mood as well as to meet International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards. But this is nothing but sheer subterfuge and hypocrisy by Obasanjo. In reality, the bill is meant to weaken the trade unions and the NLC, which in recent years, have emerged as the key opposition to numerous neo-liberal, anti-poor policies of his regime such as incessant hike in fuel prices. Since year 2000, the NLC has organised three general strikes and protests against the hike in fuel prices while two other ones were only averted at the last minute.

CONTENT OF THE BILL

The proposed bill contains the following measures:

· Outlaw strikes unless two-thirds of all the members of the union had voted in support of the strike.

· Allow an employer of labour to seek the consent of an employee to be a member of a trade union and therefore making union dues voluntary.

· Remove the NLC as the only central labour organisation and register others and any trade union that may pay 10 percent of its contributions to any of the registered federation of trade unions.

· Payment of union dues shall cease to operate among other things where there is (a) the dissolution of the unions or (b) the revocation of the certificate of registration of the union by the minister or (c) the cancellation of the registration of the union by the Registrar or (d) a strike action embarked upon by a union in breach of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the workers union and the employer.

EFFECTS OF THE BILL

The idea of seeking the consent of an employee by an employer in order to join a union is a complete fraud because most employers do not like their workers joining unions. They want to run their enterprises freely by trampling on the rights of workers. This is why the unions itself came into existence, to oppose the dictatorial tendencies of employers of labour.

Finally, the bill concentrates power into the hands of our unelected registrar of trade unions and also keeps the right to revoke the certificate of the union in the hands of a minister both who are government appointees.

The NLC should wage an unrelenting struggle against this anti-labour bill. The NLC and other trade unions should begin mass mobilisation of workers and other oppressed strata of the society against the bill in order to ensure that this vicious, obnoxious, undemocratic bill does not see the light of the day.

 

 

Socialist Democracy March 2004