Daily Trust - - OPINION -

....... with state and even fed­eral work­ers not paid their salaries. It is such a dis­grace for Nige­ria. I think Nige­ria should be in a po­si­tion to even pay its work­ers”. Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, June, 2015 Pre­cisely be­cause yours com­radely was in­volved as the Chair­man of the 50-mil­lion mem­bers-In­dus­triALL global union (Sub-Sa­hara Africa Re­gion), I bear wit­ness to the un­prece­dented unity of pur­pose by lead­ers of Nige­ria Labour Congress (NLC) in mark­ing this year’s De­cent Work Day. Oc­to­ber 7 ev­ery years is De­cent Work Day as de­clared by the ILO, In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion. It’s a day to pro­mote global aware­ness against Pre­car­i­ous Work and the need for De­cent work. Ac­cord­ing to the ILO, De­cent work means pro­duc­tive, re­ward­ing and pro­tected work. It is the work that must guar­an­tee min­i­mum and liv­ing wages for the work­ers, wages that are paid as at when due. De­cent work means work that is se­cured and done by free work­ers (NOT slave labour) who are le­git­i­mately en­ti­tled to form trade unions and en­gage in col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing to pro­tect their rights at work. De­cent work de­liv­ers a fair in­come, se­cu­rity in the work­place and so­cial pro­tec­tion for fam­i­lies, bet­ter prospects for sus­tain­able per­sonal and na­tional de­vel­op­ment. The an­ti­cli­max of this year’s De­cent Work Day was the protest match or­ga­nized by the lead­er­ship of NLC, In­dus­triALL Global Union Fed­er­a­tion af­fil­i­ates in Nige­ria and Joint Ac­tion Front on Wed­nes­day, 7th Oc­to­ber. The match con­sol­i­dated on the gains recorded in the pre­vi­ous years to lib­er­ate a num­ber of work­ers from some em­ploy­ers’ slav­ery some com­pa­nies around Isolo, Otta and Ikeja in­dus­trial es­tates as well as Eg­bin Power Sta­tion in Iko­rodu). Nige­ria joined the ILO at in­de­pen­dence in 1960 and has com­mend­ably adopted most of ILO’s core con­ven­tions and rec­om­men­da­tions in the ar­eas of hours of work, min­i­mum wages, right to free­dom of as­so­ci­a­tion, col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing and ma­ter­nity and other work-based gen­der rights. How­ever with un­bri­dled pur­suit of prof­its by many pri­vate em­ploy­ers of labour and bad gov­er­nance by some state gov­ern­ments and Fed­eral agen­cies, lim­ited jobs avail­able are in­creas­ingly far from be­ing de­cent. In­deed work is get­ting pre­car­i­ous as work­ers face hard times in the face of wors­en­ing con­di­tions at work. Work­ers are ex­posed to wors­en­ing health and safety sit­u­a­tions with in­creased cases of deaths and in­juries at work. In­sur­gency has also made work pre­car­i­ous, with work­ers as vic­tims of sense­less bomb­ings and dis­place­ment. Worse too is the dan­ger­ous un­ac­cept­able de­layed, non-pay­ment of salaries of work­ers of up to 7 months in some States in re­cent times. De­layed or non-pay­ment of salaries is wage theft which should be treated as noth­ing but eco­nomic crime. Work­ers have the right to make un­govern­able and un­man­age­able com­pa­nies and States that are de­fault­ing on wage pay­ment, re­mit­tance of pen­sion con­tri­bu­tions and trade union dues! I com­mend Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari for nam­ing and damn­ing non-pay­ment of salaries as “a na­tional shame” and im­por­tantly too, for work­ing out ways and means to as­sist some de­fault­ing states gover­nors to meet their wages’ obli­ga­tions. Ex­ist­ing wages could not mit­i­gate the high costs of liv­ing. Not pay­ing the mis­er­able wages or de­lay­ing its pay­ments means lit­er­ally sen­tenc­ing work­ers to early deaths. Work­ers’ monthly wages are le­git­i­mate first line- reg­u­lar earn­ings that must not be tied to pres­i­den­tial bail outs. Pre­car­ity of jobs man­i­fests also in re­cruit­ment of new work­ers. Some un­scrupu­lous em­ploy­ers rather than em­ploy­ing di­rectly out­source their work­force un­der in­hu­man and crim­i­nal terms. Many com­mer­cial banks and some gov­ern­ment agen­cies are guilty of this with the tragic case of immigration Ser­vice last year. Few Work­ers who are em­ployed are get­ting poorer be­cause of poor re­mu­ner­a­tion. Jobs are no longer se­cured as em­ploy­ers opt for ca­sual short term flex­i­ble em­ploy­ment as part of the strate­gies to save cost and boost profit. Most Com­mer­cial banks are slave cen­tres with ut­ter dis­re­gard for per­mis­si­ble hours of work. Some Banks set work load and sui­ci­dal work-tar­gets that op­press and ex­ploit fe­male staff. Be­cause of their em­ploy­ment sta­tus, an in­creas­ing num­ber of women have no ac­cess to ma­ter­nity pro­tec­tion with young em­ploy­ees trapped in a vi­cious cir­cle un­able to move from pre­car­i­ous work to per­ma­nent em­ploy­ment above the 3 months legally per­mis­si­ble. The rise of pre­car­i­ous em­ploy­ment has mul­ti­ple con­se­quences af­fect­ing our so­ci­eties lead­ing to deep­en­ing poverty and in­creas­ing in­equal­ity. Pre­car­i­ous work has taken over a good part of de­cent work, the most dis­turb­ing be­ing the change of em­ploy­ment sta­tus from con­ven­tional per­ma­nent to tem­po­rary em­ploy­ment in the form of ca­su­al­iza­tion, out­sourc­ing and con­tract staffing. The next Min­is­ter of Labour, Em­ploy­ment and pro­duc­tiv­ity must be judged by the way he or she en­sures de­cent work based on Nige­ria’s law. No thanks to ex­ist­ing mass un­em­ploy­ment and un­crit­i­cal pur­suit of for­eign and do­mes­tic in­vest­ment, not few em­ploy­ers vi­o­late sev­eral as­pects of our labour laws and in par­tic­u­lar sec­tion 40 of the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion of the Fed­eral Re­pub­lic and sec­tions 9(6a) and 9(6b) of the Labour Act cap 198 Laws of the fed­er­a­tion 1990, which guar­an­tee Nige­rian work­ers un­fet­tered rights to as­so­ciate and join the union. Trade Unions must also do self crit­i­cal as­sess­ment. There are some col­lab­o­ratist trade unions and trade union­ists per­pet­u­at­ing pre­car­i­ous work. Nige­ria Labour Congress (NLC) should have a code of con­duct to re­ward unions that are fight­ing thus pro­mot­ing de­cent work and sanc­tion unions that pro­mote pre­car­i­ous work in col­lab­o­ra­tion with some crim­i­nal em­ploy­ers.

40 of the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion of the Fed­eral Re­pub­lic and sec­tions 9(6a) and 9(6b) of the Labour Act cap 198 Laws of the fed­er­a­tion 1990, which guar­an­tee Nige­rian work­ers un­fet­tered rights to as­so­ciate and join the union. Trade Unions must also do self crit­i­cal as­sess­ment. There are some col­lab­o­ratist trade unions and trade union­ists per­pet­u­at­ing pre­car­i­ous work. Nige­ria Labour Congress (NLC) should have a code of con­duct to re­ward unions that are fight­ing thus pro­mot­ing de­cent work and sanc­tion unions that pro­mote pre­car­i­ous work in col­lab­o­ra­tion with some crim­i­nal em­ploy­ers.

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