Stories by Bimbola Oyesola, 08033246177
In the last five years, the Employees Compensation Scheme (ECS) of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) has so far registered 45,000 employers, paid over N700million as compensation to over 6,000 injured workers.
The ECS which came as a replacement to the old Workmen Compensation Scheme, that hardly cared for injured workers, is paying up to N1.3million monthly to the beneficiaries of some deceased workers, the amount which represents 90 per cent of the last income of the deceased breadwinner after computation.
This concept which ensures that workers who are injured or died at work are no longer abandoned to their fate, invariably has raised the profile of the scheme among the workers as they are now more disposed to give their best at work.
The Acting Managing Director of the NSITF, Ismail Agaka, noted how the scheme has been a boost to national productivity.
According to him registering with such a scheme that promises treatment and rehabilitation of injured workers in the course of work is a huge incentive for higher productivity.
“Joining this kind of scheme boosts the moral of the employees without shouting it. Boosting the moral of employees is more than just increasing the salaries and allowances,” he said.
The NSITF boss also highlighted that the higher productivity in the workplace always show in the bottom-line of organizations.
His words: “Higher bottom-line means more money coming into the company. It will also lead to better industrial climate in the workplace. A harmonious industrial relation in the country would lead to national cohesion. The burden of care is transferred to the NSITF from an employer should there be any workplace accident, injury, disability or occupational disease. The scheme helps employers overcome unanticipated expenditure especially if such comes when the organization is not financial strong enough for such expenses. How do organization address this kind of development during cash flow challenge? Such development could lead to employees seeing their employers as wicked and uncaring regardless of challenges such employer may be going through.”
In spite of the fact that the scheme has recorded some level of success, the NSITF opined that it could have achieved more but for misconception from some employers who thought the scheme is for the benefit of workers hence their reluctance to enroll their workforce on the scheme.
The Acting Managing Director of NSITF, explained that the safety at workplace is meant to ensure the safety of both employers and employees alike.
The NSITF boss said it is erroneous for employers to think that the scheme is for the benefit of employees alone, saying, “everybody is exposed to one form of occupational hazards or the other in the workplace. So, it is not a question of, it does not concern me.”
He noted that compensation covers all forms of accidents irrespective of location, including victims of plane crashes who lose their lives in the course of work.
His explanation: “First, if the employer of such a victim of plane crash was registered, the survivor of such a person would be compensated. Secondly, the journey must be in the course of carrying out official duty. If it is confirmed that it was an official trip in the course of work, then the next of kin or the dependent of the deceased employee is covered. Indeed, many such claims have been processed by the NSITF.”
Although the NSITF is presently not operating hospitals where injured workers are treated, he stated that medical bills incurred by organizations for the treatment of injured workers are settled, while NSITF takes over the treatment if it is longer.
He, however, said, “If there is an accident, the employer owes his or her employee the duty of care by offering that employee at least first aid treatment. It is after the stabilization of the worker that the office now reports to the NSITF and then the process begin. Whatever medical expenses that might have been incurred prior to reporting to the NSITF is refunded. If there is any need for the employee to obtain further rehabilitation as the case may be, it is the responsibility of the NSITF. But the first point is that the employer must be registered on the scheme and also the accident must also be reported to the Fund through a laid down procedure,” he stated.
He explained that the Act establishing the ECS only recognizes up to four children as the maximum number of beneficiaries.
The NSITF boss said as against the pension scheme where individuals can increase the rate of contribution, there is no such provision in the employees scheme.
He explained: “The scheme is for people that are working only and not for retirees. There is no provision for any employee to register on his won. Every worker willing to register must come through an employer because the scheme is employers’ obligation.”
Agaka hinted that the NSITF is presently reviewing its contribution rates to serve as an incentive to employers who have recorded low accidents in the workplace while also raising the rate of more susceptible sectors of the economy.
“We are in the process of reviewing our rate of contribution to reflect the risk exposure of organization. While there is risk rating, there would also be merit rating. Merit rating is reviewing downwards the contribution of those that are regular in their contributions and are not in the habit of filling claims for compensation periodically,” he said.
The scheme is not however without its bottleneck, as the NSITF embark on fresh vigour to sensitize the trade unions as well as employers on the need to enroll on the scheme for the safety of their workforce.
The Managing Director affirmed that one of the major challenges mainly is that NSITF have not sensitise its public enough.
“But we are now embarking on an aggressive enlightenment of our public that included the trade unions and employers of labour. We are also talking to the state governments telling them the benefits of the ECS”, he said.
He praised Bauchi state government for taking step to enroll its workforce on the scheme just as NSITF is in dialogue with more states to come on board.
He added: “Bauchi state is already registered on the scheme and will soon begin contributing. The process of the state’s contribution is still under discussion and we expect the details to be finalised very soon.
“We have received invitation from many states to make presentation on the scheme. We indeed have met with the Lagos State government officials and are now in the process of getting them registered on the scheme. The management is talking with Edo and Zamfara states with a view to getting them on board as well.”
The NSITF helmsman also decried the negative impact of the economic recession on the implementation of ECS saying, “the reigning economic challenge has also limited our reach in terms of collecting contributions from employers. There are some employers that have to close shop amongst those that have registered while those that have not closed shop, have had to reduce their workforce drastically or reduce staff salaries because contribution is a function of the payroll of organizations. Therefore, the reduction of staff or their salaries will affect the amount of contribution into the scheme directly.”
Meanwhile, the National Assembly may soon organise a public debate on the expansion of NSITF mandate to execute more social security initiatives.
“There is a bill in the National Assembly for the amendment of the NSITF Act for it to execute other programmes apart from the employees Compensation Scheme. That bill has gone very far in the legislative process. What we are waiting for now is the public hearing on it,” he stated.
NUCFRLANMPE reads riot act to employers over casualisation
It may no longer be business as usual for employers of labour in the chemical sector, who subjected their workers to inhuman treatment under the guise of casualisation or contract staffing.
The National Union of Chemical Footwear Rubber Leather and Non Metallic Employees (NUCFRLANMPE), at the weekend warned that it would attack employers who denied their workers right to belong to union henceforth.
The new President of the union, Goke Olatunji, said during the inauguration at the secretariat in Sango Ota, Ogun State, weekend that the new leadership has finalised plans to commence massive mobilisation of all its members towards the new responsibility.
“We are moving out to emancipate all our members who have continued to work under various precarious conditions even in their own country. This time around, we are unionising all workers irrespective of their status, whether regular or casuals”, he said.
Noting that recession is not only limited to Nigeria, but global, he charged the employers to look inward in the area of sourcing their raw materials so that the issue of scarcity of foreign exchange would have less negative impact on their operation.
He said, “in the present economic situation, we all need to support the Federal Government to reposition the country. All the sectors and the organised labour would all have to give their best in the efforts of restoring Nigeria back to her continental and global relevance.”
Olatunji said the recession has dealt a big blow to the resources of the union which has depleted drastically, with almost half of its members lost to redundancy.
He, however, said that as part of the union’s contribution towards economic restoration of the country as well as finding solution to its dwindling resources, the union in line with the trend in the movement, is diversifying into some business ventures.
“Our event centre as well as shopping complex is already at the 90 percent completion. Besides that, we equally have some other business concern we want to do, as we have discovered that we must provide alternative to the dwindling check off dues if we still want to be around for a long time”, he said.
He lamented that the chemical sector, just like some other manufacturing sector, has been at the receiving end of the forex scarcity, but maintained that the workers have really been supportive to their management to ensure the companies survival.
He assured his members that the cordial relationship between the union and the employers would be exploited as the two go into the National Joint Negotiation Council (NJIC) meeting early next year for a new salary negotiation as the existing one expires in December.