....... 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.