BY GRACE ANYANWU, ABUJA – Following the strike by National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), the House of Representatives is to look at the possibility of amending the Labour Law to empower the ministry of Labour to sanction erring employers of labour.
This is as the leadership of the House of Representatives promised to ensure the implementation of the agreement between the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), the Bureau of Public Enterprises and the Federal Ministry of Power to address the grievances that led to a strike action recently.
Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, who stated these when he led the leadership of the House to a meeting with the minister of Labour, Senator Chris Ngige, minister of State for Power, Mr Goddy Jedy Agba, officials of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and the leadership of the NUEE,
The leadership of the House will see how NUEE can work with the committees on Power and Labour towards amending the Labour law to suit the issues they canvassed.
Gbajabiamila said the House would make sure that members of the union are henceforth treated rightly by the government to avoid the strike action they embarked upon on Wednesday, which paralysed economic activities in the country.
At the meeting, the Speaker appealed to the union to “exercise higher tolerance” before thinking of embarking on strike as their action could affect lives negatively.
He noted that even though the agreement was signed at a meeting held between the ministry of power and the NUEE, the House leadership now want to be included as a witness so that it would ensure that all issues agreed on are implemented.
Gbajabiamila further said; “From all indications, this matter will be resolved permanently. This matter was discussed on the floor of the House yesterday (Wednesday), and we decided that it will be addressed by the leadership, not by any committee, not because the committee doesn’t have competence, but because of the seriousness.
“This issue has unintended consequences on Nigerians. Within the hours you were on strike, a lot of things may have happened. But they may not be reported.
“Let me plead with the electricity workers that your power of tolerance should be higher than any of us because your work and what you do or fail to do can affect lives. You should be able to sacrifice more.
“We want to make that agreement a tripartite agreement and include the House of Representatives as part of it. We want to be part of the agreement as witnesses so that you can hold us accountable. That way, we’ll ensure that the government meets its part.”
Gbajabiamila further pleaded with the electricity workers to henceforth communicate to the House whenever there are issues that would lead them to embark on strike.
Minister of Labour told the House leadership that he was disturbed by the strike, saying the union did not duly notify his ministry about its planned action.
He said; “I want to register my great displeasure at what has happened. This is because electricity is an essential service after the hospital. In fact, if you shut down electricity, you will end up killing people.
“It was unfortunate that they had to go on strike without involving us much on the issue. I didn’t find it funny that the whole economy was thrown into a gargantuan loss,” he said.
On his part, the Minister of State for Power, Agba said an agreement was reached with the electricity workers, which led to the suspension of the strike.
“We’ve sat and thrashed out the issues from 8:00pm to about 2:00am. We signed the papers and they suspended the strike. I assure you that this matter has been resolved and communique has been signed.”
Also speaking, the General Secretary of the NUEE, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said the Union duly informed the ministry of Labour about the 21-day ultimatum but no action was taken, adding that they were left with no option than to embark on the strike.
Ajaero said; “Ministry of Labour has teeth, but it can’t bite. We want a situation where the labour law will be amended so that the ministry will have teeth to bite. The ministry will write employers of labour, but if they fail to obey, they can’t be sanctioned.”
Ajaero expressed doubts on government’s readiness to respect the agreement, but the Speaker assured that the House would do everything within its powers to see to the implementation of the agreement within the agreed stipulated time frame.