The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige has described as irresponsible and unpatriotic the reaction of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Assembly, NECA, through its Director General, Mr. Segun Oshinowo to the directive of the Federal Government to banks and others to halt the mass retrenchment of workers pending the outcome of a stakeholders’ meeting in the first week of July.
According to Ngige, the position of NECA, an umbrella body for employers in the private sector, was not only irresponsible and thoughtless, but a bland knee jerk reaction borne out of self service and unpatriotism.
The minister, in a statement by the Deputy Director, Press, in the Ministry, prince Samuel Olowookere said any reaction that tended to work against government’s intervention in any sector of the economy in the overall interest of all Nigerians, by invoking a sudden rigid stricture to free market rules, was an absurdity.
The statement read in part: “If government has been intervening and shall continue to intervene to save banks and allied institutions, even the aviation industry, in times of distress without allowing the free market rules to solely reign, therefore not forcing some of them to go under, the same government can equally make minimum demands from this private sector in the overall interests of the nation. Our authority in this instance is not only statutory but also moral.
“Therefore, we wish to state clearly once more, that the intention of government rather than being punitive on these financial institutions is to safeguard national interest by staving off unnecessary job losses and hence avert its real and potential threat to the already fragile security situation and stability of the nation.
“Government intention is guided by the fact that there are clear alternatives to the abrasive lay-off of thousands of workers especially in the background of non-compliance with laid-down rules on redundancy as clearly enunciated in our labour laws.
”The labour unions in the financial institutions have brought forward, very strong evidence that thousands of workers laid off last year in a similar excercise are yet to receive their negotiated benefits. We wish to state that it is only an irresponsible government that will trivialize such a situation and the attendant responsibilities. The Buhari administration is patriotic, nationalistic and very responsible and shall continue to take measures that protect our institutions, private or public.
“We also add that our directives to the banks are premised on set rules of engagement. That section 20 of the labour act is abundantly clear on redundancy and steps expected of institutions to safeguard not just their interests and that of their employees but also that of government who is the chief guarantor of industrial harmony.
“It is hence unpatriotic and a predetermined sabotage of common good to expect that government will have its hands tied by a mischievous and self serving credo about free market.”