NATIONAL UNION OF FOOD, BEVERAGES AND TABACCO EMPLOYEES AND MANAGEMENT OF NIDOCO NIGERIA LIMITED (NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT) HON. JUSTICE (CHIEF) P.A. ATILADE - PRESIDENT ALHAJI Z.M. BELLO - MEMBER M.A. BORISADE, ESQ. - MEMBER SUIT NO: - NIC/13/86 DATE OF JUDGMENT - WEDNESDAY 21ST OCTOBER, 1987 LABOUR LAW - Redundancy - Where prevailing circumstances of employment justify same- Duty on court to uphold terming ground of redundancy. LABOUR LAW - Redundancy benefits - How calculate to have recourse to collective agreement between the parties. LABOUR LAW - Termination of employment - Work; abandons work Right of employer to terminate employment of. LABOUR LAW - Trade dispute - Lock-out of workers – Where workers abandon work – Whether they can complain of being locked -out. LABOUR LAW - Trade dispute – Victimization of workers- Suggestion by employer to workers on procedure for forming trade union – Whether constitutes victimization. LABOUR LAW - Trade union- Membership of-Management staff of company – Whether can be a member of a trade union. TRADE DISPUTE - Lock-out of workers - Where workers abandon work – Whether they can complain of being locked-out. TRADE DISPUTE - Victimization of workers - Suggestion by employer to workers on procedure for forming trade union - Whether constitutes victimization. TRADE UNION LAW - Trade union - Membership of- Management staff of a company - Whether can be member of Trade union. ISSUES: 1. Whether the Respondent illegally locked out its workers on 27th May, 1985. 2. Whether there was victimization and harassment of members of the Appellant by the Respondent. 3. Whether the redundancy benefits paid by the Respondent to its workers were adequate. FACTS: The Appellant’s case is that on 27th April 1985, a general meeting of junior workers of the Respondent was held during which the said workers elected the branch officers of the Appellant Union. The respondent was subsequently notified and requested to meet with the officers. A copy of the letter so notifying the Respondent was endorsed to the Federal Ministry of Employment, Labour and Productivity. Although representatives of the Appellant turned up for the meeting, the Respondent did not attend. A second meeting was however held and attended by both parties, whereat the Appellant formally introduced the Union to the Respondent. Thereafter, the management of the Respondent warned and threatened the workers not to belong to the Appellant Union. Subsequently, the workers were locked out of work on 27th May, 1985, while some of the workers were detained at the Police Station and the appointments of many workers were terminated the same day. The matter was reported to the Federal Ministry of Employment, Labour and Productivity, but it could not successfully resolve the matter as the Respondent refused to reinstate the workers. The matter was then referred to the Industrial Arbitration Panel, which decided against the Appellant. Following an objection to the Award of the Industrial Arbitration Panel by the Appellant, the dispute was referred to the National Industrial Court. On its part, the respondent denied the claim of the Appellant. It contended that there was no proper inauguration of the Appellant in the company. Moreover, there was rationalize: of workers due to redundancy arising from dwindling economic fortune of the Respondent company, caused by scarcity of raw materials and consequent low productivity. According to the Respondent, if was when its management was trying to explain the impending staff rationalization policy to the workers that the leaders of the Appellant directed them to abandon their duty posts. Consequently, Respondent invited the Police to secure the premises of the Respondent, and the Respondent terminated the employment of the workers involved, but paid their entitlements. The Respondent denied harassing, victimizing the workers in any way howsoever. HELD: (Allowing the appeal in part): 1. On Whether workers who abandoned work can complain of being locked out - Where workers voluntarily walk out of premises of employer, they cannot turn round to complain of being locked out of work. 2. On Whether suggestion by employer to workers on formation of trade union constitutes victimization - A circular merely informing workers that a particular trade union has not been recognized by their employer, and giving the workers suggestions on procedure for recognizing the particular union, cannot amount to victimization or harassment of workers. 3. On Whether management staff of company can be member of a trade union - By section 3 (3) of the Trade Unions (Amendment) Act, 1979 no staff recognized as a projection of management structure of any organization shall be a member of or hold office in a trade union (whether or not the members of that trade union are workers of a rank junior, equal or higher than his own), if such membership of or the holding of such office in the trade union will lead to a conflict of his loyalties to either the union or to the management. In this case, since the management of: Respondent regarded the post of senior storekeeper as a semi-management position, the holder should not be a member of or hold office in a trade union in conformity with the said section 3(3) of the Trade Unions (Amendment) Act. 4. On Right of employer to terminate employment of workers who abandon work - Where workers abandon their work as in this case, the employer is entitled to terminate the employment of such workers, and the court will not order their reinstatement. 5. On When court will justify termination of employment on ground of redundancy- W here the prevailing circumstances in a company justify redundancy, the court will treat the termination of employment of the workers of such a company as termination on ground of redundancy. 6. On How redundancy benefits calculated - Where employment of workers is terminated on ground of redundancy, such workers will be entitled to and should be paid redundancy benefits including payment in lieu notice in accordance with the provisions of the existing collective agreement between the parties.