ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), Yenagoa Judicial Division, has granted teachers operating under the auspices of the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS), Bayelsa State Chapter, the right to form an association.
The court also granted ASUSS the right to break away from the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Bayelsa State, for the purpose of caring for the welfare and interest of its members even though it is not registered as a trade union.
The court, in its judgment on the suit with number NICN/YEN/37/2019, also considered the fact that since ASUSS is duly registered under the Companies and Allied Matters Act, the NUT has no right to collect check-off dues from members of ASUSS without a written consent or prevent ASUSS from collecting check-dues for the welfare of its members if they have a written consent to do so.
The suit filed by Mr. Kalama Tonpre and Hector Jonhson on behalf of NUT, Bayelsa State, sought a perpetual injunction restraining teachers from assembling or associating under the name of ASUSS for not being a registered trade union.
But, the Presiding Judge, Justice Bashar Alkali, in his judgment, said that the NUT had no power to grant waiver, regulate or accredit ASUSS and therefore, its demand was invalid.
Recall that secondary school teachers had massively withdrawn their membership of NUT in 2017 on the grounds that the leadership of the union was not protecting and promoting the interest of its members.
They had requested their employers to stop deducting check-off dues from their salaries in favour of the NUT.
Due to the development, the NUT dragged the defendants: Igbudu Pedro, Ibietan Simeon, Ohis Quincy, Godspower Nancy and others to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in 2019, seeking a perpetual injunction restraining teachers from assembling or associating under the name of ASUSS.
NUT had also claimed that ASSUS was harassing its members for paying their check-off dues.
Part of the judgment read: “There is nothing in the Trade Union Act, Labour Act or Pension Reform Act that empowers the NUT Bayelsa State chapter to regulate or accredit other associations with the same objective.
“There is no evidence of the fact that members of ASUSS are members of NUT and no document to show that NUT obtained consent of each member of ASUSS to the deduction of a percentage as check-off dues.
“Therefore, ASUSS acted within its constitutional rights in forming the association to care for the interest and welfare of their members even though not as a trade union.
“Any deduction of check-off dues to the NUT without consent of the person whose wage is to be deducted is a nullity as same lacks validity for failure to fulfill the said condition.
“The NUT has no power to grant waiver, regulate or accredit ASUSS or any other association. Thus, ASUSS may collect dues deducted from its members for the purpose of getting registered as a Trade Union. It is immaterial if the association so formed is registered as a Trade Union or not.”