June 16, 2009

FG okays 16-wk maternity leave for workers

By Funmilayo Kolafe
GENEVA — WOMEN in the federal public service are now entitled to 16 weeks maternity leave with full pay.

Before now, women in government or private sector employment were entitled to 12 weeks maternity leave with full pay irrespective of their status and the number of babies delivered.

The International Labour Organisation, yesterday, advised Governments of all member countries, including Nigeria, to consult with private employers and workers’ organisations in order to respond positively to the global job crisis.

On the maternity leave for women in the federal public service, a member of the government delegation to the 98th International Labour Conference holding in Geneva, Mrs. Theresa Braimah, confirmed this while speaking during a session on Gender Equality.

It is however yet to apply in the private sector because the National Assembly is yet to pass the Labour Standards Bill which includes the 16-week maternity leave for women.

The draft bill which contained consensus reached on a number of work place issues recommended 16 weeks maternity leave for women with multiple births who are engaged in the private sector.

But the Federal Government’s 16 weeks maternity leave is for all female federal employees irrespective of their marital status and the number of babies delivered.

However, Nigeria is yet to ratify Convention 183 (Maternity Protection Convention, 2000) which recommends a minimum of 16 weeks maternity leave for women.

Mrs. Braimah who represented the Federal Government at the meeting said although the ILO “had offered considerable support on policies and programmes promoting gender equality, more could be done to strengthen the research agenda and knowledge base relating to new trends and changing patterns in the world of work especially in the context of the economic crisis”.

Wondering why only a few countries have ratified, Convention 183 (Maternity Protection Convention, 2000), Mrs. Braimah called for more women representation at the International Labour Conference even as she congratulated the ILO on  its Action Plan for Gender Equality and gender focal point network”.

How to tackle global job crisis, by ILO

Also at the same conference, the ILO suggested that solutions to be proferred on global job crisis must focus on “rapid recovery of employment and accompanying social protection needs” which must be “central to public policy and business decisions.

At the same time, we need to build an efficient social market economy that will prevent relapsing into the excesses and inequalities of the past.”

The President of Finland, Tarjan Halonen in his contribution, called for a modernisation of the international financial system “so that it meets the necessary criteria for safety and transparency”. He said, “the lack of trust in the financial system is a serious problem”.

ILO’s Director-General, Mr. Juan Somavia, who spoke at the commencement of a 3-day summit on the Global Jobs Crisis said, “At these times, what brings social partners together with government is far greater than their differences.

The green shoots of renewed social dialogue sprouting here and there must multiply”.
Mr. Somavia said the ILO is aware that “one of the biggest challenges we face is to make social dialogue work at home.

We know it’s not easy, we justify its absence.

We find excuses for its underperformance, we blame the other but the end is that we all lose”.

On a note of caution he said, “If social dialogue does not take root at home in times of crisis, we would be weakening the full potential of a Global Jobs Pact”.

Mr. Somavia said the “UN Chief Executives Board is working on nine joint initiatives to confront the crisis-including  on employment and social protection  with the ILO as lead legacy”.

He emphasised that “legitimacy is not just the power to decide, it is the capacity to deliver solutions that work and respond to people’s needs, the accountability for what we are doing”.

President Tarjan Halone, one of the nine heads of state and government attending the 3-day Global Jobs Crisis said, “The weakness of the global financial structures have long been known. They were pointed out by the ILO World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation in 2004”.

On the effect of the current crisis on developing countries, he said “the devastating effects of the economic and financial crisis are particularly felt in the developing countries.

We must show our solidarity for the most vulnerable and remain strong in our commitment to reach the United Nations Millennium Development Goals”.

The ILO Director-General, Mr. Somavia said the objective of the Global Jobs Pact is “a world economy that works for all; delivers on decent work for women and men; social justice at home and a fair globalisation in the world.

This is our task.  That’s the mandate of the 2008 Declaration, it cannot be delayed”.