By KATO P. LADAN, Kaduna
His Lordship, Hon. Justice Sanusi Kado of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, sitting in Kaduna has declared the circular issued by the Ministry of Finance, Kaduna State on the directives of the Kaduna State Executive Council for the stoppage of unions due collection by Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) Kaduna, RATTAWU and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) as invalid, unlawful, illegal and wrongful for being in breach of statutory provisions authorising deductions of check-off dues.
AUTHENTIC News Daily gathered that the Court held that the right of a worker to decide which union to belong to is not absolute; it must be exercised within the limit of the Trade Union Act.
In the Originating Summons filed on 10th day of April 2018, the claimants’ submitted among other for determination whether having regard to the express provisions of section 17 of the Trade Unions Act Cap T 14 LFN 2004, (as amended) by the Trade Unions (Amendment) Act 2005, in a community reading with section 5 (3) (a) and (b) of the Labour Act Cap Ll LFN 2004 it is not unlawful, arbitrary, illegal, wrongful and ultra vires the powers and authority of the Kaduna State Executive Council to order Stoppage of deduction and remittance of unions dues (check-off dues) of all workers employed by the Kaduna State Government, to the accredited registered office of the Unions?
Upon determination of all questions, the Claimants sought against defendants for A DECLARATION that by virtue of the provisions of section 17 of the Trade Unions Act (as amended) by the Trade Unions (Amendment) Act No. 17 of 2005, check- off dues are the statutorily permitted deductions under the Trade Unions Act, which in relation to unions specified under the Third Schedule to the Trade Unions Act, are compulsory, automatic and do not rely on the pleasure of an employer.
In a nutshell, the claimants averred in the affidavit that on 23rd January 2018, the Government of Kaduna state issued a circular directing the stoppage of deductions of union dues with immediate effect.
The Claimants aggrieved by the aggravated injury, caused by the issuance of the said circular, wrote to the Governor through their Lawyers without any positive response or reaction whatsoever.
It was the contention of counsel that the circular issued on the orders of the Government of Kaduna State was issued without requisite power that the internal memo dated 23/1/18 purporting to meddle into the affairs of deduction of union check-off dues has no legal basis, wrongful in law and unconstitutional.
Hadiza Shehu, Esq; Senior State Counsel Ministry of Justice of Kaduna State, who appeared for the defendants in her written address asked for determination whether it is lawful for check-off deductions to be made from the salaries of workers employed by the Kaduna State Government without their consent as provided by law?
Counsel submitted that forming or belonging to a political party, trade union or other association is not automatic but based on the exercise of choice, that some workers might not be members of unions and therefore no deductions can be made from their wages that the only way to determine who is a member and who is not a member is for the workers to indicate their choices in writing.
After careful evaluation of all the processes filed, and the submissions of the learned Counsel from both sides, the Court presided by Hon. Justice Sanusi Kado expressed thus;
“There is no disputing the fact that labour and employment matters are within the exclusive legislative list as item 34 in the 3rd schedule Part 1 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“This goes to show that regulation of Labour and Employment matters can only be regulated by the Federal Government and not the State government. If there is the need for any legislation on areas covered by item 34 of the exclusive legislative list must be by the National Assembly who has been constitutionally conferred with the requisite power to do so.
“Consequently, any attempt by a state government to dabble into the affairs which it had no power over must be resisted.
“Apply the provisions of the Constitution as amended in section 45(1), it is the view of this Court that the requirement of deduction of check-off dues from the workers’ salaries for remittance to trade union cannot be said to be in violation of the Constitution. The reason being that the workers are imbued with right of choice they can decide to opt out of the check-off dues without let or hindrance. Therefore there is no conflict between the provisions of section 40 of the Constitution and the provisions of Labour and Trade Unions Act.
“The law on voluntarism prior to 2005, remains the law as at today nothing has changed. The right of a worker to decide which union to belong to is not absolute it must be exercised within the limit of the Trade Union Act.
“What is now clear is that all junior staffs are deemed to be members of trade unions within their jurisdictional scope as enunciated in the Third Schedule to Trade Union Act. This means that an employer is duty bound to deduct check-off dues from all deemed members and eligible members of trade unions to the benefit of the unions without authorization to do such in writing.
“It is only senior staffs that are not deemed members’ that need to give their written authorization.
“From the above exposition of the law, the order directing stoppage of deduction of check-off dues, was issued in violation of the law and cannot stand to deprive the claimants the proceeds of deductions from check-off dues as there was no law that authorized the defendants to order or direct stoppage of deductions of check-off dues.
In view of the foregoing, the court declared that deductions of check-off dues from salaries of eligible workers of Kaduna State Government are mandatory statutorily permitted deductions.
His Lordship granted an order nullifying the circular for stoppage of unions due in its entirety for being invalid, unlawful, illegal and wrongful for being in breach of statutory provisions authorizing deductions of check-off dues, from the wages of eligible workers.