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Social partners endorse ECB

By Funmi Komolafe
Sometime in 2005, the three social partners in the industrial relations triphod ;  organised labour, private employers and the  government  met under the auspices of the federal ministry of labour with  a representative of the International Labour Organisation in attendance.

Their mission was to review labour laws which were  no longer realistic.  It took  months  and finally, they agreed on five labour bills  which were presented to the federal executive council. One of such bills is the employee’s compensation bill.

(L-R) Vice President Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, Chief Rechard Uche, TUC President Comrade Peter Eseme and NLC Secretary General of John Odah look on during PublicHearing on a bill for an Act to Repeal the workmen’s compensation Act 2004 and to make compensation for ant Death, Injury, Disease or Disability arising out of or in the Course of Employment and for matters connected therewith 2009 at National Assembly Abuja. Pic: Gbemiga Olamikan.

TWICE in the last two weeks, the Senate and the House of Representatives conducted public hearings on the Employees Compensation   Bill (ECB). The Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress, Nigeria Employers Consultative Association and other members of Civil Society were in attendance.

Also in attendance were representatives of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund; the organisation charged with the responsibility of implementing Employees Compensation  as agreed by the labour centres and private  employers.

However, some  Insurance companies began to make claims that the ECB if passed into law and executed by NSITF would jeopardise their business  interests. Some even claimed that the ECB was unnecessary.

Three issues featured prominently during the public hearing, the need for ECB to be passed into law,  the executing agency and  the percentage to be contributed.

The Essence of the Bill —Hon. Ado Dogo Audu

The chairman of the House of Representative Committee on Labour, Hon. Ado Dogo Audu said, “ This bill is of monumental importance to us. You (public) are only assisting us in our major function of law making. The bill is to guarantee  adequate compensation for employees and their dependants for injuries sustained at work. The bill is expected  to compliment a comprehensive reform of the agenda of government. No nation can become great  if its workers feel unsafe or are not adequately compensated for injuries at work.

Why we support the ECB —labour, employers

A representative of the Civil Liberties Organisation, Barrister Abah Ejembi said, “ This bill is  a very important initiative.  If passed into law, it will ensure  that very many Nigerians have access to the good things of life.

Workmens Compensation Act has no objective but this one has .  It is in accordance with what CLO stands for.  Rehabilitiation of injured workers enhances the dignity  of labour.  It make provision for no fault claim unlike Insurance. The motive of private insurance is profit and this is against the aim of ECB”.

Nigeria Labour Congress – Represented by Issa Aremu “We fully support the bill.ECB is not competing with Pension Reform but complimentary. Pension is about life after work, ECB is about working life now. If we had ECB  the families of about 30 workers who were roasted in the Ikorodu factory fire would have been compensated. We support the bill and it is in the interest of this country and indeed  all Nigerian workers that the bill  be passed into law”.

Trade Union Congress – represented by  president-general, Comrade Peter Esele  who gave reasons why the Workmens’ Compensation Act has failed to meet the  needs of injured workers  said, “ the proposed ECB  will allow injured  employees to collect benefits  without being forced  to file a personal injury claim against an employer that may or may not result in compensation.

It also protects employers against unmanageable liability. The proposed ECB is a movement from the current “At fault”system  into a “No fault” mandatory system. The employee is entitled  to benefits regardless of whether the injury was employer’s fault, employee’s fault or caused by the negligence of another employee”.

TUC general secretary, Comrade John Kolawole who was at the Senate public hearing said the implementation of the EC should be extended to the  informal sector

NECA- represented by Mrs. Uche Ajaegbo-  We have been part of this bill together with NLC, TUC, NSITF   but  we have issues with the percentage of the to be contributed’.  Instead of one percent to which NECA, NLC and TUC earlier agreed,  NECA made a shift and suggested 0.75%.  She also made a shift in position when she said  “ NSITF should be a regulator” and that  private sector insurance should also be  part of the administration of Employees Compensation.

NLC- Her comments drew a  sharp reaction from NLC general secretary, Comrade John Odah who said,  “  NECA agreed on NSITF as the implementation agency at the tripartite level since 2005.  What NECA has done now is in bad taste.

What  they  have done is to abdicate the principles  in the process of tripartism which we are all a part off.  We have the records of the meetings and NECA’s position there,  so we will present this to the Senate and the House of Representatives”.

People and Passion Consult Ltd-  A non – governmental organisation represented by Comrade Salihu Lukman- ‘“ The proposed Act  make provisions  that are novel and also provide  an open and fair system of guranteed and adequate compensation  for all employees  against occupational hazards ( even at the  point of death) arising in the course of employment.

It is easily accessible with minimal delay, so as to enforce occupational safety and health standards  in Nigeria to be in accord with International Best Practices found in countries like South Africa, Brazil,  Mexico, Poland, Algeria, Denmark,Tunisia,Cote D’ Voire.

Comrade Lukman said, “ There is no conflict here.  Employers, NLC, TUC are in agreement on this bill.  It does not repeal any insurance Act”.

Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity- The permanent secretary, Ambassador Chike Anigbo led a delegation of the ministry to the Senate public hearing. He spoke through the director inspectorate unit of the ministry, Mr.  Paul  Okwulehi said the ministry is fully in support of the ECB .

He said “ for the first time, there  is  a pool of funds  from which an injured  worker can benefit . This is what  solidarity means.    Secondly, it is a no fault bill.  We are introducing  this bill and trusting in the committee  that it will be  passed in the interest  of workers who get injured in the work place”.

It’s unnecessary — Insurers

Whereas the majority endorsed the bill, a minority view opposed it and they were mainly from the insurance sector.

Speaking for  National Insurance Commission, ( NAICOM), Mr. Samuel  Onyeka said although his organisation was not averse to any form of social security, in the country,  there is no need for the Employees Compensation Bill rather, he wants the  Workmens’ Compensation Act to retained and the ministry of labour directed  to  enforce its implementation.

Nigeria Insurance Association – “There is no need  to repeal the Workmens’ Compensation Act”.

Lagos Chamber of Commerce-   “this additional cost of doing business may be a disincentive to investors’’ .  He called for a review of the Workmens’ Compensation Act rather than a replacement of the Act.

Employees Compensation Bill – This is an executive bill sent to the legislature by the executive arm of government.

It states ECB “An Act to repeal the Workmens’ Compensation Act 2004 and to make comprehensive provisions for Compensation for any death, injury, disease or disability arising out of or in the course of employment and for matters connected therewith”

Objectives of the  Act.

*To provide for an open and fair system of guarnteed and adequate compensation for all employees  or their dependants  or any death, injury, disease or disability arising oout of or in the course of employment.

* To provide rehabilitation  to employees with work-related  disabilities  as much as possible

* To  establish  and maintain a solvent compensation fund managed  in the interest  of employees and employers

* To provide for fair and adequate assessments for employers

* To provide an appeal procedure that is simple, fair and accessible with minimal delays and

* to combine efforts and resources of relevant stakeholders  for the prevention  of workplace disabilities, including the enforcement of occupational safety and health standards”.


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