October 7 every year is celebrated globally as the ‘World Decent Day for Workers’ and Nigerian workers were not left out, as they held symposium and marched on the streets of Lagos and other parts of the country to create awareness on the plight of workers operating in precarious conditions.
Members of the global labour body, IndustriALL, in Nigeria, comprising of the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers (NUTGTW), Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Chemical and Non Metallic Senior Staff Association (CANMPSSA) and National Union of Chemical Footwear Rubber Leather and Non-Metallic Products Employees (NUCFRLANMPE), were at different locations in Lagos on October 7, as early as 8 a.m carrying different banners and placards with such inscriptions as, “’we demand decent job’, ‘no to precarious work’, ‘Nigerian workers are not slave in their fathers’ land’, ‘we demand better wages’” and so on. While they were on the streets, however, workers in the banking sector, under the Association of Senior Staff of Banks Insurance and Financial Institutions. (ASSBIFI), held their annual lecture at the Airport Hotel in Ikeja, equally to sensitize their members and employers on the dangers of precarious work.
The Regional President of global labour union, IndustriALL and the General Secretary of the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers (NUTGTW), Issa Aremu, at the rally said decent work is the only way out of the present economic recession.
He said, “The best way out still remains how the country treats its 80 million real and potential workforce. The country definitely faces the problem of limited revenue due to decline in crude oil price and crude oil production. However Nigeria is rich in human (labour) resources. Nigeria has progressive labour laws which sanction permanent employment as opposed to casual labour. Our labour laws ensure health and safety at work, pensions after work and regular payment of salaries as well as protect the rights of workers to freely join trade unions of their choice. Sadly these labour laws are being violated by many employers and even some state governments which unacceptably owed salaries for months.”
Aremu said, “Buhari administration must urgently reform the labour market to enforce the existing progressive labour laws with respect to security of jobs and incomes of the workers in order to motivate for greater productivity for development and economic recovery.”
He maintained that only permanent secured, well paid workforce not casual workers will work Nigeria out of recession.
According to him, precarious work fuels precarious economy while secured work ensures economic stability and prosperity. “President Buhari must therefore, constitute the tripartite wage review committee including labour, employers and government to negotiate new minimum wage long due for another five-year review”, he said.
He noted that precarious or casual work is the work done by employees under terrible conditions of low pay, delayed payment and general insecurity.
National President of ASSBIFI, Sunday Salako at the lecture charged workers to fight against casualisation in accordance with International Labour Organization (ILO) convention.
According to him, “we are now in era where government agencies are also involved in workers’ casualisation through outsourcing of jobs that are supposed to be permanently meant for Nigerians. This is not good for our democracy and we are determined to fight it.
“Last year, we focused on the challenges of casualisation among the Nigerian workers. It was so serious that we discovered that the actual cause of casualisation is corporate greed which also transformed into outsourcing.
“We noticed that there are also other issues that are as a result of corporate greed. The issue of vulnerable workers have always been at the forefront of our discuss. We have always been at the forefront on the issue of outsourcing and casualisation, we have been fighting it. But our challenge is that we have government that have been compromised. “Employers and government are the same. Most employers are politicians or friends of politicians. They ensure that no policy of government will negate their companies policy or undermine their investments. More so, some of our politicians are financed by this employers and the politicians will not have the political will to support policy that will undermine such interests.”
He noted that those supporting the calls for sale of national assets are interested in buying them.
Salako lamented that it is very difficult to have decent work environment in Nigeria because the government that should regulate between labour and employers has been compromised.
He, however said the union’s focus this year would be to build workers power against corporate greed and weak corporate governance, thereby protecting workers who served as whistle blowers.
On his part, the National President of NUPENG, who is also the IndustriALL President in Nigeria, Igwe Achese, reiterated the need to stop casualisation and outsourcing in the oil and gas industry, describing it is as modern day slavery.
“In the oil and gas industry, we are facing a lot of challenges with redundancies all over occasioned by the glut. Our membership is depleting on a daily basis and there seems to be no end to it”.
“Some of the challenges faced in the sector includes casualisation and outsourcing. Our members who are still in employment are being casualised with no condition of service. We are also faced with problems of non-unionization of workers”.
Achese, called on the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment to engage the employers of labour in a bid to allow workers to unionise as stipulated in the Constitution.
He charged the Federal Government and the National Assembly to close ranks and pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), adding that the passage would bring sanity and transparency to the Oil and Gas Industry.
He also charged the Federal Government to intensify efforts on the diversification into agriculture, to further make Nigeria self-sufficient in food production.
FG, parents drum support for teachers
As Nigerian teachers joined their colleagues on October 5 to celebrate the World Teachers Day, governments, parents and the society have been urged to support the teachers who produce greater future for the country.
Principal of the Federal Government Girls College (FGGC), Sagamu, Ogun State, Mrs. AbiodunOwolabi noted that teachers are the backbone of the society and deserve to be more honoured in a child’s life, even more than a parent.
“Parent gives birth and spend money, but the teacher is the one that mould the future of a child. Teachers are noble professionals, they make engineers, lawyers, journalists, accountants, even the presidents of nations”, she said.
She stated that a good teacher is like a candle that consumes itself to light ways for others, adding that she was happy to be a teacher and equally commended other teachers in the country.
The Chairman, Association of Senior Civil Servants (ASCSN), Federal Government Girls College (FGGC), Sagamu, Kunle Opatimeyin, said the union endeavoured to celebrate the day in the school for the first time to enable the teachers have a sense of belonging.
“We all know that in this part of the world, teachers are not appreciated and respected but the profession mould and build all other professions. So we thank God for being a vessel”, he said.
He added that the occasion was also meant to show that unionism is not all about welfare but to bring workers closer to the management, the outside world and encourage hard work.
The Chairman, Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of the school, Mr. James Oyesola, said teachers worldwide strive to enlighten students and work effortlessly to make a difference, educating and inspiring future generations. We should bear it in mind that, there are many precious roles of teachers in education of students, society and country.
He said,”the growth and development of the people, society and country is solely dependent on the quality of education which can be given by a good teacher. Good quality education is very necessary to all to fulfill the need of politicians, doctors, engineers, businessmen, farmers, artists, scientists, etc in the country. Teachers work tirelessly and go through variety of books, articles, etc to put thorough knowledge needed to the society.”
He, however, lamented the present crisis between the Federal Government and the PTAs, which he said would impact negatively on the welfare of the institutions.
He noted that most of the unity schools have sacked all their PTA’s teachers, but assure the teachers in the school that the PTA in the school would not do so as it would affect the academic performance of the students.
He stated further, “We have the desire to do everything possible for the school for the comfort of students and staff. But, we have come to live with the moments of great challenges. Our regime have been marked with debate about great issues because, the reduction of PTA levy by the Federal Ministry of Education has generated a lot of complaints and grievances from stakeholders.