….urges courts to ensure protection of labour rights
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, has decried what it termed as poor treatment of workers in Abia State, alleging that judges in the state have not been paid their salaries for over 18 months.
The labour union, through its President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, further disclosed that whereas most schools in the state are closed, doctors are equally owed over 12 months salaries.
The NLC President noted that not only has the Abia State Government failed to implement the minimum wage, it has declined to pay workers as at when due.
Wabba spoke at a public lecture the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, NICN, organised as part of activities marking the court’s 2022/2023 legal year.
The NLC boss recalled how a Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal that met him at the airport, bitterly complained to him about the sorry state of affairs in Abia State’s Judiciary.
He said the judge told him that because judges in Abia State have not been paid for about 18 months, she had to personally send stipends to support some of them.
Wabba said: “In that state too, doctors have not been paid for more than 12 months. That is the reality, and schools are closed.
“And she (the Appeal Court Justice) demanded to know what the labour movement in the state and the NLC were doing on the Abia case
“I quickly checked and found out that the NLC Chairman in the state has retired from service. But, because he is doing the bidding of the government, he approached the government in writing to give him an extension.”
Wabba added that when he heard of the development, the NLC through its National Executive Council, NEC, objected to the Abia State Chairman’s request on the grounds that he has retired and that the position of the law is that a retired person cannot continue to lead workers.
The NLC President said rather than allow reason prevail, the Abia NLC Chairman went to court and obtained a perpetual injunction retaining him in office.
He argued that in that regard, the court, has failed in its responsibility to always dispense justice, insisting that the economy flourishes where labour rights are protected.
He urged the court to always dispense justice without fear or favour to ensure a harmonious relationship in the workplace.
“There is a relationship between a good industrial system and productivity and the ability to attract foreign investment.
“No investor will come to a country where there is uncertainty, where there is no opportunity for you to seek redress for any wrong,”Wabba said.
On their part, the President of the NICN, Justice Benedict Kanyip and his counterpart from Trinidad and Tobago, Justice Deborah Thomas-Felix, disclosed that moves were on to establish a Conference of Labour Court Judges for the region and the continent to deepen cooperation in the area of labour jurisprudence.
In her paper, titled: “The Role of Industrial Courts and International Labour Standards in Promoting Good Governance to Support Economic and Social Development,” Justice Thomas-Felix , who was the keynote speaker, stressed the importance of Industrial Courts in the maintenance of harmonious relationship in workplace.
While emphasizing the need for labour justice, she noted that employment protection could encourage workers to take more risks and better innovations.
“A growing body of research has indicated that compliance with International Labour Standards is often accompanied by improvements in productivity and economic performance.
“Minimum wage and worktime standards and respect for equality can translate into greater satisfaction, improved performance of workers and reduced staff turnover”, she added.