By Victor Ahiuma-Young
ONE of the takeaways for Nigerians at the just- concluded 107th session of the International Labour Conference, ILC, of the International Labour Organisation, ILO, in Geneva, Switzerland, was the revelation that the group petitioned the ILO ahead of the ILC over its non-registration by the Nigerian Government.
Not only the petition, it also protested on the sideline over perceived refusal of Nigerian Government to register it as a Labour centre in the country.
Led by its Deputy President, Comrade Igwe Achese, the ULC held a four-man protest at the UN building, venue of the ILC to also draw the attention of the world body to the issue.
Speaking on the necessity of the protest, Achese said the move was to urge the ILO to compel the Federal Government to register and recognise the congress as a trade union centre in Nigeria.
The protesters carried placards with inscriptions such as: Unchain Nigerian workers, make our workplaces free. ILO Stop Nigeria Government from threatening monopolies in trade union movement. Nigerian Workers demand full democratisation of Nigerian’s industrial relations sphere. Freedom to form unions is a fundamental right.
Achese, who claimed ULC had met all the requirements said: “For the past two years, we have been denied registration of our new Labour centre after complying with all the processes as enshrined in the Labour Act. The Constitution of Nigeria talks about freedom of association. Today, we are here to let ILO know that we have been denied that right by virtue of convention 198 and 92. We have been denied our right to association and the world should see what is happening in Nigeria.
The ILO is aware formally, we sent a copy of our letter to their office in Abuja and we also sent a copy here (Geneva). But here, we are sending our message again physically. Of course, we don’t see their response, they should be writing to us. That’s why we are here to get our message physically to the ILO secretariat.”
Meanwhile, in the petition addressed to the ILO Director- General entitled: Freedom of Association and Rights to Organise Under Threat in Nigeria, ULC’s General Secretary, Comrade Didi Adodo, said among others, Nigerian workers have been denied the right for no reason to Form, Join or Register new unions in the country. This undermines the freedoms upon which the ILO is founded and is propelled.
“It will interest you to note that as we write, over 20 unions of different shades have their applications for registration intentionally stranded at the Federal Ministry of Labour without any justifiable reason and in defiance of our statutes, conventions and traditions.
While listing about 19 groups it claimed the government through the Ministry of Labour and Employment, had refused to register, the petition named 14 affected unions that the government had equally refused to register as a centre, declaring that “The quantum of these unions describes to a large extent the depth of unorganised workplaces in Nigeria which the Federal Government seems not to care for the welfare of workers within them and the nature of workplace standards.
It shows the degree to which Nigerian work environment has become unsafe and indecent for Nigerians and it demonstrates the continued collaboration of the State with some undiscerning employers to keep Nigerian workers in perpetual servitude. It also demonstrates the yearning and hunger by Nigerian workers for new platforms to serve their interests and meet their expectations. It shows the unholy determination of the Nigerian state to hold down the Nigerian workers.
“It is important that we also inform you that most of these applicants have met the necessary requirements for registration but the State has refused. Deploying the instrumentality of the Ministry of Labour, most of these applications have become stranded administratively. The consequence of undermining collective bargaining rights both to the workers and nation as a whole, is well documented and this is unfortunately what the operatives of the Federal Government of Nigeria seem to be pursuing.
It requested ILO Director- General among others, to intervene in bringing pressure to bear on Nigerian Government to correct and stop this negation; urge Nigerian Government to register the Unions whose registration have been kept in abeyance, Request the Nigerian Government to remove all impediments currently hampering relations in the world of work, Demand that the Federal Government fully democratises the nation’s Industrial Relations space and that the ILO sends a special visitation panel or a Committee of Experts to Nigeria for the purposes of verifying our claims.”