By Funmi Komolafe
It is a season of agitation for pay raise.Â Good enough the deal on national minimum wage has been struck.Â The three social partners have agreed on N18,000 per month though it still has to undergo the due legislative and executive process before implementation .
Since hisÂ Â appointment as ,Labour minister, Chief Emeka Wogu has demonstrated that he is indeed a seasoned arbitrator. He has metÂ with union leaders andÂ sucessfully mediated in labour disputes.
However, he needs to move beyond that to take more concrete steps toÂ promote industrial harmony .
This edition of Labour Vanguard focuses on those issues and why they are necessary and urgent.
Employees Compensation Bill- Unknown to labour administrators, hundreds of workers are maimed in our factories and have been unable to get justice.Â Â Young men and women have lost limbs, fingers, to industrial machines.Â They have been maimed for life and cannot get justice.Â All they get from employers is tokenism.Â Mere treatment that does not in any way secure the future of the injured employee.Â Why?Â The Workmensâ€™ Compensation Act is out of tune with modern realities.
Since May 2007 when a draft bill on the Employees Compensation Scheme was presented to theÂ Federal Executive Council, no progress has been made.Â Â Today, in Abuja, the Senate Committee on Labour will have a public hearing on â€œ Workmen Compensation Bill 2010, Institute of Registered Safety Professional Bill 2010 and Workplace Safety and Health Bill 2010″.Â Â The Workmen Compensation Bill 2010 and the Workplace Safety and Health bill should be of interest to the minister of labour, Chief Emeka Wogu and officials of his ministry.
What is the ECB and why is it so important?Â The Employees Compensation Scheme is a social insurance aimed at providing compensation to employees who either sustain injuries from accidents in theÂ work place, or suffer from occupational diseases in the course of employment whether at usual place of work or outside it.
When passed into law, the scheme r would be administered by a parastatal of the ministry of labour, the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund
(NSITF). Therefore, the minister of labour cannot be indifferent.
Who benefits? All employees except members of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.Â It is expected to cover self-employed persons in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy.Â Its protection when broadened will cover welders, plumbers, bricklayers , I mean the real poor who get injured at work and cannot on their own bear the cost of medical treatment.
Objectives – Some of the objectives of the ECB are to â€œ repeal the obsolete Workmenâ€™s Compensation ACT 1942 ( as amended ) in line with global best practice and trends; provide for fast, fair and adequate assessment of claims, elimination of bureaucracy and bottlenecks in determining liability, minimising personal losses, encouragement of promotion of safety in the work place, provision for rehabilitation and follow-up etc.
Funding- This is to be done from a pool of resources .Â It therefore relieves the employer of the heavy burden of solely taking care of the injured worker. Compensation is paid to the employee whether the employer is liquid or not.
The minister of labour will write his name in gold if the ministry under him gets this bill passed into law.
Factories of work, or
factories of death?
During the 98th International Labour Conference, held in Geneva, in 2009, Nigeria was strongly critcised for lack her failure to conduct labour inspection as required of ILO members .Â The workers group which took Nigeria up said factory accidentsÂ resulted in the death many workers.Â Several others according to the groupÂ could have been saved these accidents if there the ministry had been able to inspect factories as it should.
Government through Mrs. Olanrewaju admitted that it has serious limitations in this area.
Indeed, the ministry has never got enough funds to acquire all the tools it needs to carry out factories inspection.Â It is also short of personnel in this area.Â The few that are available have not had training opportunities for years.
The minister needs to urgently take steps to ensure that Nigeria lives up to her responsibility asÂ as a respectable member of the ILO and more importantly to protect Nigerians from investors who are here to make profit without regard for human beings.
Jobs for all – â€œ Unemployment continues to be the number one problem in the nation.Â Â The challenge of national development is to manage the economy in such a way as to promote job-led growth rather than the present situation of joblessnessâ€.
With these words, the president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Peter Esele drew attention to unemployment during the May Day rally in Abuja.
The minister and his team must not just be seen to be talking about how to create job opportunities but must be seen to be working with the National Directorate of Employment, National Productivity Centre and other relevant agencies.
The report of the Ouagadougou summit on Job Creation in Africa initiated by then President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso is available in the ministry. Also available is the report of the National Employment Summit hosted by then labour minister, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode .Â It is a detailed report of how to create more job opportunities in the informal sector.
Geneva office staff
turn beggers -Employees of the ministry of labour in Geneva have turned diplomatic beggers.
A reliable source resident in Geneva told Labour Vanguard that these three employees have not been paid for six months. She said as a result, these officers are so indebted that they have been dragged to court several times.Â The affected staff have been owed salaries before the appointment of Chief Emeka Wogu as minister.
Our source said â€œ It is a shame that Nigeria a member of the ILO cannot pay staff salariesâ€. She said Nigerians in Geneva have resolved to send a petition to Ag. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on the issue. â€œ We think the acting president should save Nigeria from this shameâ€ said a Nigerian from Delta state who is resident in Geneva.
All of these are issues that Labour minister, Chief Emeka Wogu and his permanent secretary, Ambassador Alex AnigboÂ who is a seasoned diplomat, must urgently address.Â Wage increase alone does not guarantee industrial harmony as agitation for wages will never end.