NIGERIAN PORTS AUTHORITY AND NIGERIAN PORTS AUTHORITY WORKERS UNION (NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT) H ON. JUSTICE (CHIEF) P.A. ATILADE PRESIDENT DR O.I. ODUMOSU MEMBER S.O. KOKU,ESQ. MEMBER DR. E. C. IWUJI MEMBER ALHAJI Z.M. BELLO MEMBER SUIT NO: NIC/4/80 DATE OF JUDGMENT FRIDAY, 22ND MAY, 1981 LABOUR LAW Collective bargaining - Effect of on contract of employment of individual employee - Implication of on termination of employment. LABOUR LAW Contract - Freedom of parties to contract -Limitation thereto by law. LABOUR LAW Rights of employee - Employee in government department or ministry - Where ministry or department abolished but cannot be transferred -Rights thereof- Section 7, Pensions Act, 1974. LABOUR LAW Trade dispute - Award of Industrial Arbitration Panel - Right of appeal against - Agreement to abide by award - Whether constitutes waiver of right of appeal. ISSUES: 1. Whether Pensions Act, 1979 applied to the case of the security staff affected by the abolition of the security department of the Appellant. 2. Whether the Appellant committed a breach of contract as alleged by the Respondents, which should attract heavy damages or compensation. 3. Whether the Appellant's undertaking to abide by the Award of the IAP on a number of matters could amount to a waiver of its right of appeal. FACTS: The appeal arose from the award of the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) on the trade rate between the parties. The Appellant objected to that part of the IAP Award relating to absorption into the Nigeria Police Force, of Nigerian Ports Authority security staff posts were abolished. The Appellants based its objection on three grounds: on ground 1, the Appellant denied existence of any collective agreement between the Appellant and the Respondent which the IAP as the basis for making the award; on ground 2, the Appellant maintained that the further ruling of the IAP that adequate and equitable compensation shall be paid to the security personnel for a breach of contract and loss of career expectation was vague and not in conformity with established principles of industrial law. The Appellant contended that the affected security staff were working under conditions of service, which existed between them the Appellant, and they were not holding employment for life. Further, that the IAP did not quantify any amount of compensation, which should be paid to the affected security staff. As regards ground 3, that the IAP, having ruled that the action taken by the Appellant was influenced by the directives of the Federal Military Government that "NPA security staff be re into the Nigeria Police Force" committed an error by failing to consider the : is of the Pensions Act, 1979 which provided for the kind of situation in which the : security staff found themselves. The respondent on its part contended that there was a collective agreement between the - herein they agreed on conditions of service, superannuation scheme, pension, gratuity, abolition of posts etc. On the issue of estoppel raised by the Appellant, the Respondent stated that it was the view of the respondent that in any industrial negotiation there must be good faith, honour and good pledge but it however dealt with a different agreement between the parties. HELD: (Setting aside part of the IAP award and affirming others): 1. On Effect of collective bargaining on contract of employment between employee and employer Though the system of collective bargaining is well recognized, it is the individual employee who has a contract of employment with the employer and the individual contact could be properly terminated in accordance with the law. 2. On Limit to freedom of contract by parties - The freedom of contract by parties is limited by law. Thus, if an agreement or a contract between the parties runs counter to the law, whether general or statutory, such a contract will be illegal and consequently be null and void. In the instant case, the rights of the security staff were derive from the Pensions Act, and thus prevailed. 3. On Right of employee whose ministry or department is abolished under the Pensions Act - Under the provisions of section 7 of the Pensions Act, an employee of a government department or ministry whose department or ministry is abolished as a result of re-organization but cannot be transferred to another office, is entitled to three months notice requiring him to retire, and to payment of 100% of his pension and gratuity. 4. On Whether undertaking to abide by award constitutes waiver of right of appeal - Appellants can exercise their right of appeal to the court notwithstanding their earlier agreement to abide by the award of the Industrial Arbitration Panel.