•As NECA unveils code of conduct

Stories by Victor Ahiuma-Young

STAKEHOLDERS in the industrial relations practice in Nigeria, comprising the Federal Government, private sector employers and International Labour Organisation, ILO, have stepped up effort at fighting and eradicating child labour across Nigeria, as worrying concerns of upsurge in child labour stares the world on the face.

The ILO estimates that no fewer than160 million children globally including Nigeria, are victims of child labour and exploitative employment mainly due to COVID-19 pandemic, warning that it may increase with another nine million by the end of 2022.

Meanwhile, private sector employers, under the aegis of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, have unveiled a Code of Conduct to guide practices of companies in the organised private sector to stem cases of child labour.

Speaking in Abuja during the launch of Code of Conduct for member companies, President of NECA, Mr Taiwo Adeniyi, said the Code was to guide the practices of companies in the organised private sector towards the elimination of child labour in Nigeria.

With the theme: Promoting Employers Cooperate Social Responsibility, CRS, Initiatives, Human Rights Due Diligence towards Elimination of Child Labour, the event was organised by NECA with support from ILO, on Accelerating Action for the Elimination, ACCEL, of Child Labour supply chain in Africa.

The NECA President informed that the Code is also a practical document that gives insight into steps to be taken by companies toward addressing child labour impacts on companies and their global supply chains.

Adeniyi who noted that the umbrella body for employers in Nigeria had deployed some interventions in collaboration with the ILO, to stem the practice of child labour and global supply chains in Nigeria, said “This is to accelerate progress on the elimination of child labour in the cocoa, artisanal and small scale gold mining, especially in the supply chains in Nigeria, through the ACCEL Africa project. ACCEL Africa, a South African project, is a four-year project being funded by the Dutch Government, which is being implemented in Nigeria, from May 2019 to October 2022.

“The project is the fallout of the decision of the world leaders in Sept. 2015, to adopt the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, and 169 associated targets of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.”

He explained that the project was among the substantive targets set on the Goal 8, seeking to take urgent and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking, saying: “It is also to secure the prohibition and admission of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and the use of child soldiers by 2025.

“The number of working children in Nigeria has increased over the years and has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in spite of Nigeria’s ratification of ILO’s Child Labour Convention 188 on the minimum age of admission to employment, and Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour.”

FG seeks urgent action
Speaking, the Federal Government through the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ms Kachie Daju, implored all employers to take immediate action to facilitate the integration of child labour concerns into company policies.

She contended that “the endorsement of guiding principles on business and human rights by the UN Human Rights Council 2011 provides companies with a practical framework for meeting this responsibility.

“Based on the guiding principles, enterprises are to assess their policies and processes against the key elements of corporate responsibility in relation to the prohibition of child labour. The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Labour and Employment, hereby calls on all employers of labour to take immediate action.”

ILO seeks in CSR
Similarly, ILO Country Director to Nigeria, Vanessa Phala, urged employers to increase CSR as a response to issues surrounding working children in Nigeria.

According to Phala, increased CSR that focuses on eliminating child labour, will also reduce the vulnerabilities of children to the scourge, saying: “As employers of labour, we must consistently without fear, without favour, monitor our production and supply chains, and show decent practices. That is by contributing to the act, to the complete exclusion of children from anywhere that would harm their physical, mental and moral development, or keep them away from school.

“We can achieve this by increasing funding for existing interventions and showing continuity in executing policies related to child labour, by supporting school to work in transition and encouraging child participation.”

The ILO country Director equally pleaded with employers to create opportunities for children to go to school, to stay at school, and become productive members of society by contributing meaningfully to the communities they hailed from.

According to her: “I encourage us to make a commitment to secure the future today by taking active steps in eliminating child labour from our society. This is how we can secure the future.”

In the same vein, ILO-ACCEL Africa Technical Officer (Supply Chain and Enterprises), Possenti Silvia, called on employers to implement CSR and human rights due diligence in the elimination of child labour supply chain.

According to Sylvia, the two components are key to child development, and require effective implementation, adding: “They are very complementary and need to be implemented together. Companies through these instruments can really make a difference in addressing the root causes of child labour in the country.”

ILO designates OHS as fundamental rights at workplace
THE recently concluded annual International Labour Conference, ILC, of the International Labour Organisation, ILO, in Geneva, Switzerland, agreed on a number of key decisions aimed at benefiting workers worldwide and supporting those struggling for fundamental rights in countries where violations are flagrant.

One of such decisions was the designation of Occupational Health and Safety, OHS, as a fundamental right at work.

This landmark decision reflects the impact of international trade union campaigning and advocacy in particular in the last three years and will hold governments, and thus employers, to much stronger account at the ILO.

Adopted during the 110th session of the International Labour Conference, the measure makes occupational safety and health the fifth element of the framework, joining: Freedom of Association and the effective recognition of the Right to Collective Bargaining, Elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour, Effective abolition of Child Labour, Elimination of discrimination in respect of Employment and Occupation.

The Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work were first adopted in 1998.
Under the declaration, ILO member states, regardless of their level of economic development, commit to respect and promote these principles and rights.

In March 2021, international scientific academy, Collegium Ramazzini urged the ILO governing body, GB, to “take at the earliest opportunity the necessary steps to implement its decision to treat occupational health and safety as a Fundamental Right at Work.”

Technical committees at the conference covered a range of topics, laying important groundwork for the adoption of an ILO standard on quality apprenticeships, supporting decent work in the social and solidarity economy, and promoting job creation including through the UN Global Accelerator on jobs and social protection for just transitions.

The Conference Committee on the Application of Standards, CAS, took a number of decisions to address the shortage of nursing personnel and ensure that they, as well as domestic workers, many of whom are migrants, receive the full protection of organising, collective bargaining and other fundamental rights.

The CAS adopted strong conclusions reinforcing ILO’s foundational principles of protection for workers and respect of civil liberties, freedom of association and collective bargaining.
It also adopted strong conclusions on Myanmar, insisting that the military junta allow an ILO Commission of Inquiry to enter the country to carry out investigations, as well as on Belarus where the regime has continued to flout key findings of a Commission of Inquiry report from 2004.

Both Belarus and Myanmar were given ‘special paragraphs’ in the CAS report, which is the highest sanction available to that Committee.

The CAS further called on China to accept a special mission to assess the situation of discrimination and forced labour in Xinjiang and called on the government to report back to the ILO by September.

A statement by the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC, quoted its General Secretary, Sharan Burrow, as saying “Some very significant decisions were taken by the ILO this year, in large part due to the work done by the ITUC, its affiliates and regional organisations and the Global Union Federations. We also acknowledge the role of many governments which have stayed true to the responsibilities of ILO membership. In a world beset with crises, and multilateralism under attack, the ILO provides an irreplaceable function which provides vital protections for workers and support for social justice.”


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