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Labour, others seek decent work environment

… 850 factories close in 10 years

By Victor Ahiuma- Young and James Ezema
“Global economic downturn and trade union action to sustain decent work and decent pay agenda”, was the thrust of a symposium put to together by the  Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), to mark the world decent workday, held recently in Lagos.

The symposium afforded labour leaders, activists, workers and other concerned to exchanges ideas and seek ways of entrenching decent work environment in the world of work in Nigeria.

Addressing participants, Acting President of ASSBIFI, Comrade Sunday Olusoji Salako said the prolonged financial crisis had battered global economic activity beyond what was previously anticipated and from all indications, the crisis would  be deep, long with slow recovery.

Represented by the association’s 2nd deputy President, Comrade Edward Olobayo,Comrade Salako said economic growth in developing countries was dropping sharply with deterioration in the overall fiscal balance by as much as 6% points to a deficit of about 4% of GDP.

According to him: “The impact of the crisis on labour market has been very traumatic. This can be deduced from the last International Labour Organisation (ILO) Global Employment Trends Report which anticipates an increase in unemployment rate and a decline of labour earnings. Previous crises show that it takes much longer to return to pre-crises employment level.

Labour market tends to recover only four to five years after the economic recovery. A prolonged recession would have deeper effects than just higher unemployment and increased informality and working poverty. With so many people around the world lacking social protection, social hardship resulting from poor job prospects would intensify. The world economic recession should not however overshadow the fact that in any case, the economic recovery up to 2008 had not resulted in significant increases in decent work or falls in poverty in Africa.

The present crisis is also an opportunity to promote innovative patterns of growth capable of generating better living and working conditions for the large number of unemployed and underemployed people especially young people. The challenge before the trade union now is to respond to the current crisis through measures that will pave way for a better pattern of growth and development.”

“Trade Union movement should engage government in formulating social policy responses to mitigate the pains on workers and the people. In this case, trade union movement should encourage positive improvements to existing labour legislation. Balkanisation of labour movement will not promote industrial peace and harmony. In Nigeria, employers of labour must be made to respect the principle of dignity of labour by promoting decent work and decent pay agenda.

They should also be made to understand that workers are not asking for charity, rather are demanding what is rightly theirs. Namely, to freely exercise the trade union rights that forms part of human rights. Trade unions should discourage as much as possible employers from disengaging workers as solution to the economic meltdown under any disguise; be it rightsizing, downsizing, rationalization, etc. Where this is inevitable, good severance package in terms of redundancy benefits should be negotiated for the would-be affected workers. The laid-off workers should also be encouraged to invest their retirement benefits in setting up cottage industries as this is capable of engendering employment no matter how small.”

No decent work in Nigeria-Falana

Addressing journalists at the event, Lagos Lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana, posited that decent work does not exist in Nigeria and lamented that in the last 10 years, not less 850 factories have closed down in Nigeria with its attendant job loses.

According to him: “There is nothing like decent work in Nigeria. I would also say that in any neo-colonial environment like ours  where the bulk of the wealth produced by the people is privatised by a tiny segment of the population, you cannot talk of decent work.

In the last 10 years, under the PDP government, over 850 factories have closed down. You can imagine the thousands of workers in those factories that have been frustrated out of employment in both private and public establishments. Other countries are creating jobs even in the midst of the crisis, we are losing jobs daily.

Even though we do not have the statistics. All of us know how many of sisters and brothers who are graduates that cannot get job and  there is no hope that they would get any. So, you cannot talk of decent work in such an environment. So, Nigerians should take their destinies in their own hands. We have left the governance of our country to those who are in power and most of them do not represent the Nigerian people. I have pleaded with workers to take their destinies in their own hands.”

Struggle is  the  answer – Adeeko

In his paper, another legal practitioner, Comrade Sanmi Adeeko, argued that despite the attraction in banking jobs, many employees of the banks were under serious trauma and restlessness.

He noted that “behind the facade of the ‘seemingly’ attractive pay and sparkling appearances are palpable worries, tension and anxieties of troubled souls largely emanating from the’ stifling working conditions.  From the standpoint of employment and job ‘stability, to the employers nonchalant attitude to the doctrine of recognition, an essential element of social dialogue, to the convoluted and arm twisting tactics of basic rights at work, the agenda of decent work to the financial sector need to be re-appraised and pursued with renewed determination.”

“The struggle for decent work is all-embracing and all-encompassing and beyond the confines of the banking halls and allied offices. Of greater challenge are other social, political and macro-economic factors which have the tendency to affect in equal positive or negative dimensions the workers aspiration for decent work.

It is therefore strongly suggested that the organized labour unions in the financial sector should continue to collaborate with the civil society organisations and other labour unions particularly the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), to fight for the enthronement of a better political system, social and economic equity and justice in the Nigerian nation. We need decent democratic practice to ensure good governance.

We urgently need electoral decency so that the universal principle of one man, one vote will not only be entrenched, but equally guarantees  the mergence of leadership at all levels of government  based on the actual and genuine votes of the electorate. According to William Shakespear, the fault does not lie in our stars, the fault is in us. No meaningful and lasting rights are achieved without an even more meaningful fight and struggle. Flowing from the above, it is for the organized labour and union leaders to take the destiny of the workforce in their hands.

The historic struggle for decent work in the work-place will be greatly enhanced given a better mobilized and enlightened workforce, resolute, committed, selfless and uncompromising labour leaders acting and directing in collaboration with the tripartite stakeholders, civil society organizations and other labour unions towards the attainment of social justice, improved political and economic conditions in Nigeria.

Sacked workers petition Labour Minister

WORKERS allegedly dismissed by Unilever Plc, over Christmas bonus, have  petitioned the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Prince Adetokumbo Kayode (SAN), seeking his intervention for their reinstatement with full benefits, saying some of them had put in not less than 27 years in the company.

Under the aegis of Victimized Workers of Unilever Nigeria Plc, the embattled workers numbering sixty-one,  from both Oregun and Agbara offices Lagos,  said they were summarily terminated in 2008 by management following a protest over non-payment of their bonuses and Christmas packages.

According to the aggrieved workers, “In year 2007, workers in Oregun and Agbara offices of Unilever Plc demanded that management should increase our bonus and Christmas package. The Management promised the workers to wait till year 2008 for the increment and the workers did not hesitate. When November 2008 came, the workers through the union sent a reminder to management to fulfill their promise but the management reneged on their promise and told the workers that the company could not afford any increment. Several meetings were held subsequently between the workers and management to try and arrest a brewing industrial action to no avail”.

The sacked workers explained that they resorted to protest to drive home their demand which led to the arrest some of the workers’ union executives.

“On Friday 7th November, 2008, 5 members of staff and two union executives were also arrested. The strike action was suspended on the l0th November 2008, after wards, the management of Unilever decided to summarily dismiss 61 workers; all of whom have worked with the company for between 5 and 27 years. Sir, we the victimize worker of Unilever Plc are by the petition seeking your intervention to save our soul and our dying families.

We want to be re-instated to our jobs with full benefits. Even if the company wants to disengage us, it will be the height of injustice to disengage a man from his job of 27years without his due benefits. Many of us now have our children out of School. One person has died because of the associated trauma, in the face of the global melt down, our lives have been made miserable and we believe that our nation has structures that should intervene and save us this blatant injustice,.

They  accused management of Unilever of  frustrating all attempts at finding an amicable solution to the problem, noting that,  “but we have also refused to loose hope. We trust and pray fervently that at the end of our struggle, we will get adequate recompense”.

PIB:  Labour tasks lawmakers over casual workers

WORKERS in the upstream sector of the nation’s oil industry, have asked the National Assembly to ensure that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) now before it put an end to casual and other forms of un-pensionable employment by oil companies.

Under the aegis of Producers’ Forum, the workers in a petition to the National Assembly,  by Comrades Victor Olley and Peter O. Akpenka, the  Forum Chairman and Secretary respectively, said: “The bill is lacking in provisions for the system of contract staffing in the industry, which currently does not protect the rights of Nigerians to “equal pay for equal work” as applicable to employees of the equity holding companies or the proposed IJV.

The current practice violates the human right. Laws and contravenes the International Labour Organization (ILO) convention which Nigeria is a signatory to. The nation currently loses tax revenue derivable from this group of workers whose compensation does not reflect the actual value of work that they provide.”
“The Forum recommends that the human right provision for equity in compensation be included to discourage the deliberate miss-classification of regular position as contract positions. The bill must provide for “equal pay for equal work of same value” right from the first day of engagement, irrespective of the duration/nature of the employment contract. All workers in the industry must be equally compensated for work done.”

NPA workers hold inaugural working committee meeting

LEADERS of the new executive of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) branch of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), will tomorrow (Friday), October 23rd, 2009, hold their maiden meeting.

The meeting will afford the newly elected leaders the opportunity to set agenda on how to run the affairs of the branch towards impacting positively on members.

Labour Vanguard gathered that among those expected to grace the occasion is the President-General of MWUN, Comrade Emmanuel Anthony Nted.


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