The Federal Government has reaffirmed the right of all workers in Nigeria to belong to labour unions in line with the principles of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in workplaces.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige reaffirmed this at a two-day tripartite harmonisation and validation of Reviewed Labour Laws Bills in Abuja.
Presenting a keynote address, Ngige said we must align ourselves with all the ILO principles in workplaces, including the principles of strike and picketing.
He noted that in this last one month, a lot of things had gone wrong in the labour sector, which his ministry and the Presidency were upset about in terms of employer-employee relationship.
He said, “We need to draw the line so that people will know when they cross the other person’s line. No employer is supposed to interfere in the election of officers of a union or prevent workers from unionization, except the organisations that have been mentioned and given this exemption all over the world, which are domesticated in our labour laws.
“But unions and workers should not go into who should be employed or appointed by the appointing authority-Mr. President-especially when the constitution of the country permits him to appoint.
According to the Minister, except in areas where the constitution told Mr. President to share this appointment procedure with the National Assembly by sending names of appointees for screening and confirmation, no other person except the National Assembly could tell him who to appoint or not.
He disclosed that Nigeria was poised to ratify the ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment (2019), to address violence and harassment against women and men at work through standard legislation, workplace policies, and initiatives on safety and wellbeing at work.
He revealed that the convention has been moved by his Ministry to the Federal cabinet secretariat and would be taken any moment from now by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
He said the reviewed Labour Bills would be validated at the meeting and sent to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval and afterwards, the council would direct the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice to transmit the reviewed Labour laws to the National Assembly for passage.
“The bills include the Labour Standards Bill to repeal the Labour Act, CAP L1, LFN, 2004 and the Collective Labour Relations Bill to repeal the Trade Union Act CAP T14 and T15 LFN, 2004, Trade Disputes Act, CAP T8 and T9, Trade Union Affiliation, and Trade Union Essential Services.
“We are also trying to enact the Occupational Safety and Health Bill to repeal the Factories Act CAP F1 LFN, 2004 and Labour Institutions Bill to create the National Commission for Conciliation and Arbitration as well as strengthen other existing institutions.
He said the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund Act, 2010 was equally being reviewed to align Employee Compensation Act (ECA) with globally acceptable workplace laws.
He maintained that the harmonization and validation underscore the Federal Government’s continuous commitment to fulfilling its obligations as a member state of ILO, and ensure best practices in labour administration and decent work for all.
He recalled that the Ministry and its social partners had undertaken the review of the National Labour Bills in the past but it suffered some abortions until the present efforts to review the labour laws started last year in Lagos before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the Ministry took the bull by the horn after the ILO had expressed displeasure with Nigeria for not bringing labour laws up to date and in conformity with its conventions and principles at work.
“We are also trying to align our laws with all the recommendations so that we will not fall short of expectations from a country that has three membership of the Governing Board. We have membership as a Government and even headed it for two years (2016-2018) and also headed workers and employers groups in the ILO Governing Board.”
He said they were expected at the meeting to consider the enabling Acts to parastatals of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, including the National Directorate of Employment Act, 2004, the National Productivity Centre Act, Act 2004 and the Micheal Imuodu National Institute of Labour Studies Act.
“There are also three members bill initiated in the National Assembly. The bill on casualisation of workers, which seeks the end of ill treatment of Nigerian workers through yellow dog employment, by which major employers hide under the canopy of labour contractors to perpetrate unfair labour practices like stoppage of work, unionisation and retrenchment at will. There is also a bill for the amendment of labour law fines.”
The social partners participating in tripartite exercise include the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Nigeria Employers Consultative Assembly (NECA).