By Bimbola Oyesola
Organised labour has tasked the Federal Government to recognise COVID-19 as a workplace disease, notifiable and compensable occupational hazard.
President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, in a statement commemorating the 2021 International Memorial Workers’ Day, themed “Save Lives at Work”, said this was significant coming at the epoch of the global fight against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“The contribution of frontline workers, especially healthcare workers, is a formidable buffer between deaths in thousands and deaths in millions.
“Every day, our healthcare workers courageously dare the stare of death in selfless service to rescue the lives of others,” he said.
Wabba noted that, in view of the foregoing, the NLC demands, as action points in the push to “Save Lives at Work” not only in Nigeria but all over the world of work, the listing of occupational health and safety as a fundamental right at work and the recognition of COVID-19 as a workplace disease and as a notifiable and compensable occupational hazard.
He also called for the “provision of training and capacity-building for trade unions to deal with occupational safety and health (OSH) issues and push for reforms in the Factories Act, particularly in relation to enforcement and penalties.”
The NLC president demanded compensation for COVID-19 victims in the workplace and adequate and quality personal protection equipment for workers at the workplace.
He also called for the payment of health hazard allowances to health workers and other frontline workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic and reinforcement of workplace observation of COVID-19 protocols.
While labour expects actions on these demands, Wabba assured workers of the NLC’s commitment to protect their health and safety at work at all times. He reasoned that, in line with the theme of the Memorial Day, labour would make a strong case for the welfare and protection of workers.
He said, ”There is no better day to demonstrate our readiness to fight for the living than today.
“We will fight for the living by highlighting the preventable nature of most workplace incidents and ill health, to promote campaigns and union organisation in the fight for improvements in occupational safety and health in our different workplaces.”
The NLC president also said, given the ravaging effects of COVID-19 pandemic, the consciousness of health as a fundamental human right has never been so globally appreciated: “It is in light of this understanding that trade unions and international workers’ solidarity movements are now making a global push to lift the status of occupational health and safety to the highest level at the ILO.”
Wabba, who doubles as the president of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), said the global body had a strong push for the listing of COVID-19 as a notifiable and compensable occupational health hazard for workers infected with the virus.