Some Suggestions On Government -Labour Face Off In Nasarawa

BY YUSUFU SHEHU USMAN. The most painful and devastating effect of the labour strike in Nasarawa State is the closure of the State Specialist Hospital and all Government health facilities across the state
This is where the strike has the greatest direct and negative impact on the poor masses
If the people are denied access to public health care in a state where over ninety percent of the citizens rely only on Government health facilities, many lives will be lost to the strike. This is not acceptable
This will greatly affect the perception of the Government in the eyes of the poor and vulnerable citizens who are entitled to be provided health care by the government from their own common resources
It is the responsibility of the Government to provide health care for the citizens and once this duty is put in jeopardy for any reason, the Government will lose public sympathy at a critical time when it is seeking re election
The Government should do whatever is necessary to restore the provision of health services across all Government health facilities in the state
In my view, it is not a sign of weakness on the part of the Government to call the organised Labour back to the negotiation table to iron out the grey areas in the agreement they have both substantially agreed to
I am glad to read from the side of the Government that it has conceded to expunge the clause which the labour felt was nebulous and counter productive
This has set the ground clear for reaching a final resolution of the dispute
There wasn’t much left to be settled between the parties before the inclusion of the controversial clause in the draft agreement
And, now that the government has agreed to expunge it, it should invite the Labour back to the negotiation table for both parties to do the needful
I know that another sore point that can delay the signing of the agreement will be the Government policy of no work, no pay
It must be understood even by the Labour that the no work, no pay rule is not the creation of the Nasarawa State Government
It is provided for in the labour Act
However, this is a policy which to the best of my knowledge, has never been successfully enforced even by the Military Government
It has its origin from the Military era when the Babangida Administration sought to enforce it against striking doctors at his time. It didn’t work and the doctors were paid their salaries despite the withdrawal of their services during the strike
Back home in Nasarawa State, this will not be the first time the government will attempt to enforce the no work, no pay rule
I remember in the last Administration of Almakura during a similar labour strike, the Government resorted to the the same policy when the workers downed their tools
I led the Government team to the Federal Ministry of Labour for a meeting with the National Officers of the NLC and TUC
The meeting was at the behest of the Minister of Labour aimed at finding a solution to the protracted Labour crisis in the state
The Minister of Labour upheld the right of the state government as an employer of labour to enforce the no work no pay rule
However, the Minister also pleaded with the state government to waive it’s right on the no work, no pay, in the interest of industrial peace and harmony
The Almakura administration accepted the plea of the Minister of Labour and agreed to pay all the workers for the period they were on strike
I thought it necessary to go down the memory lane to stress the point that insistence on the part of the Government to enforce the no work no pay policy will only worsen the crisis and put the much needed industrial peace and harmony in jeopardy
In fact and as experience and history have shown, of all the rights of the Employer under the Labour laws, the no work no pay policy is the most difficult to enforce. It has not never been successfully implemented by any Government
In conclusion, I plead with the Government to reconvene a negotiation meeting with the Labour to bring this avoidable strike action to an end in the interest of the suffering masses, especially in the area of health care delivery
I also plead with the Labour to appreciate the genuine efforts by the AA Sule administration to solve the accumulated labour issues, which in fairness to him we’re not created by his Government but inherited as a part of liabilities left behind by previous Administrations before his
The Labour should further appreciate the rather unfavourable and prevailing financial position of the Government in their demands
I don’t think even the federal government with it’s huge Financial might and capacity can settle accumulated arrears of promotion benefits in one fell swoop in this period of financial adversity
I hope that the Labour should be content in the circumstances, to agree to a phased disbursement structured on a fixed quantum and spread over a reasonable time frame
The most important issue in a settled negotiation is not the execution of the agreement per se, but the sincerity and commitment by both parties to respect what they have appended their signatures to and remain faithful to it’s implementation
With this as the driving principle, I believe that the Nasarawa State Government and the organised Labour can resolve this crisis and restore normal services to the people
I recommend that the action should commence from the side of the Government and the Labour should give it’s full cooperation towards a peaceful resolution of face off in the interest of Nasarawa state

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