Stories by Bimbola Oyesola 08033246177
It would no longer be business as usual for employers of labour in Nigeria and other parts of Africa who use casual workers and engage in other anti-labour practices.
This is even as the organised labour in Nigeria, spurred by the need to tackle issues of poor wages, social security and capital flight, has agreed to strengthen the presence of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) in the country.
The labour unions, who are affiliates of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), gave their support to the global body at a meeting held in Lagos at the weekend.
The WFTU, at the meeting organised by Labour to welcome its president, Mr Zwandile Makwayiba, a South African, to Nigeria for the first time, lamented the exploitation of the African workers by capitalist employers, without any meaningful economic and social trannsformation.
To address the ills, therefore, the global body, in collaboration with the labour movement in Nigeria, is proposing to hold the African regional conference in Nigeria in July this year.
The WFTU president said the conference was necessary to enable trade unions in Africa forge a common agenda and define a common approach to issues affecting workers on the continent, including minimum wage and common laws, among others, and submitted that Nigeria, as the most populous nation in Adrica, is expected to take the lead.
“At WFTU, we believe that the plight requires working class unity across the continent, for instance the struggle of our trade unions against big business in Nigeria could be won, not just in Nigeria, but equally through solidarity efforts in South Africa, Kenya or Ghana,” he said.
Makwayiba also decried the present situation in Nigeria in which the country is richly blessed with petroleum and other natural resources while the vast majority of its people are impoverished due to its current capitalist system, maintaining that capitalism is a system that benefits only a few to the detriment of the poor masses.
On the problem of casualisation and outsourcing, Makwayiba said the challenges are equally prevalent in South Africa.
He, however, noted that the federation has managed to convince the South African government to establish laws that compulsorily allow a worker permanent status after three months of employment whether the employer wants it or not.
He explained that the focus of the federation was to end oppression of men by men, black or white, and it could be achieved through the involvement of the whole society, not labour alone.
Mr. Leke Success, convener and presidential council member, WFTU, stressed that the aim of the meeting was to enlighten labour unions on the fact that the federation would help to handle issues of workers and retirees.
“Foreign nationals who own companies in Nigeria maltreat workers in terms of poor wage, lack of social security and capital flight, among others, and nothing is being done.
“That is what affiliate stakeholders have gathered to deliberate on and the Ministry of Labour and Productivity has given its support,” he said.
Success, who is also the General Secretary of the National Union of Hotels and Personal Service Workers and NLC National Administrative Council member, said that WFTU was in Nigeria to strengthen the job of the NLC and TUC in achieving decent work agenda, right of workers and unionisation, raise a bigger vision and provide a larger perspective.
NASS to revisit social security bill
The House of Representatives may revisit the Social Security Bill, which, because of the last administration’s inability to sign it into law, has been stalled, giving rise to waht has been described as a huge setback in the implementation of social security programmes in the country.
Chairman, House Committee on Labour and Employment, Hon. Onyewuchi Ezenwa, speaking when the committee paid an official visit to the corporate headquarters of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) in Abuja, said there was need to revisit the bill and unravel why it was not assented to by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Seventh National Assembly had passed the Social Security Bill, sponsored by the NSITF, in the twilight of the last administration.
However, the former President did not sign the bill into law before he left office in 2015.
Some committee members voiced their concerns regarding the long delay in signing the Bill into law as they asserted that it was a setback to the implementation of the social security programme of the present administration.
A member of the committee, Ayi Ekpenyong, submitted that the NSITF was in the proper place and shape to handle the implementation of the nation’s social security programmes, noting that the planned disbursement of N5,000 to a category of Nigerians was not “properly domiciled” in its present position, because the implementation of the scheme ought to have been done by the NSITF.
The committee members pledged to put the social security in the right perspective to enable the Fund administer its major mandates as stipulated by law, while promising further collaboration to make the fund successful during their tenure.
However, providing some insight into the probable reasons the bill was not assented to by Jonathan, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Dr. Clement Illoh, explained that the previous administration did not assent to the Social Security Bill because of the challenge of funding.
Illoh, who is a member of the NSITF board, further disclosed that a technical committee had been set up by the ministry to further work on the NSITF (amendment) Bill. He stated that there would be a public hearing in February on the NSITF Bill, which is currently on the floor of the House of Representatives.
He further told the committee that the challenges facing NSITF were non-compliance by many organisations and government agencies, stringent policies and legislation as well as capacity building.
Illoh craved the indulgence of the committee to review the statute backing the fund, disclosing that the NSITF, being a member of the International Social Security Association, was implementing only the Employees’ Compensation Scheme (ECS), which is only one of the 12 social security components.
Earlier, the Acting Managing Director of the NSITF, Ismail Agaka, indicated that the Fund has been collaborating with the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) on workplace safety campaign to further reduce the incidences of workplace accidents.
He told the House Committee that NSITF became saddled with the responsibility of implementing the ECS by the Employees’ Compensation Act, 2010, which repealed the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
He further disclosed that the fund would soon embark on a nationwide awareness campaign in its determination to take NSITF to the doorsteps of all employers, employees and Nigerians in general.
He also noted that the fund presently has a staff strength of over 4,000 spread across its 11 regional offices and 55 branches nationwide.