Court Restrains Union From Strike Action, Picketing FIRS Offices

The National Industrial Court, Abuja Judicial Division has stopped the National Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU) from either picketing the offices of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) nationwide or calling for a strike at any of the Service’s offices across Nigeria.

Justice O. Y. Anuwe issued the order of interim injunction on Friday in a suit which the FIRS as Claimant/Applicant instituted against NCSU, the Defendant/Respondent.

The court ordered that “the Respondents are restrained from picketing the offices of the applicant on 26th July 2021 or any other day pending the determination of the Motion on Notice. They are also restrained from going on strike, as by so doing, the very essence of the substantive suit is defeated. What this translates to in other words is that parties are to maintain the status quo, and are not to do anything that may be detrimental to the interest of the public, pending the determination of the Motion on Notice. The order to maintain status-quo however binds both parties in this suit.”

In another suit, NINC/ABJ/157/2021 in which the NCSU issuing the FIRS, the court refused the prayer of the NCSU seeking an order compelling the FIRS to continue the automatic deduction of check-off dues for the NCSU, which is a defunct union at the FIRS, from the salaries of the Service’s workers. The two cases were adjourned to 15 October 2021 for a hearing of the motion on notice and originating summons.

Recall that the Board of the FIRS, in the 18 July 2021 public statement widely reported in the media, had announced the dissolution of the NCSU FIRS Unit (whose Executive members are senior staff) which purportedly represents the junior staff cadre that is non-existent in the Service.

The FIRS took that decision for reasons outlined in an official announcement circulated to all staff which reads as follows:

“In line with Gazette No. 6 Vol 65 dated 8th February 1978 and National Industrial Court Judgement dated 27th June 1995, it is noted that the operations of Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU) FIRS Unit as it is constituted today in FIRS is considered illegal as there are no longer any junior staff cadre employees in the service. There is accordingly no legal or another basis whatsoever for the continued existence of a junior staff cadre union in FIRS as the cadre of staff it is deemed to cover do not exist within the organisation. A letter from Federal Ministry of Labour to the Head of Service of the Federation dated 19th February 2015 confirmed the above position in categorical terms.”

The statement further clarified that “the right of workers to decide which union to belong is not absolute but must be exercised within the limits of Trade Unions Act CAP T14 LFN 2004. This position was confirmed in the Judgment of the National Industrial Court – NCSU vs ASCSN (2004) 1NLLR Part 3, 427.

“In the light of all the above, The FIRS Board at its Meeting No. 30 held on the 24th June 2021, therefore, directed that given items 1 & 2 above, the activities of NCSU FIRS Unit in the Service are henceforth considered illegal and the Union (NCSU FIRS Unit) is hereby proscribed with immediate effect.

“The Management also assured staff that it is unreservedly willing to work and cooperate with the only legitimate representatives of staff, that is to say, the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria. Accordingly, staff were called upon to redouble their efforts in executing the FIRS mandate of assessing, collecting and accounting for tax revenue for all levels of government as contained in the FIRS Establishment Act (2007).”

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