Nigerian workers have called on the government and other employers of labour to invest in the care economy so as to galvanise economic growth in the country.
The President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, spoke on behalf of the workers at a press briefing in celebration of the World Day for Decent Work, on Monday in Abuja.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has set aside October 7 for the global celebration of Decent Work. This year’s celebration is themed “Invest in the Care Economy.”
ILO defines decent work as work that is secured and done by free workers who are entitled to form trade unions and engage in collective bargaining to protect their rights at work.
Mr Wabba who was represented at the briefing by his deputy, Benjamin Anthony, said investment in care economy would generate growth, tackle growing demographic challenges and help overcome gender discrimination by mainstreaming women in the economy.
“Investment in care economy means prioritising investment in extended social protection to women, extended leave for care of children, secured parental leave for both agenda and change in work arrangement to allow workers to achieve the critical balance between work and family.
“In practical terms, it means creating opportunity for work that is socially productive and economically rewarding. It means that we do not just put end the care of children and the elderly in the hands of women who constitute the majority of the workforce in the sector without adequate reward and the necessary supporting structures and facilities, ” he said.
Mr Wabba expressed dissatisfaction at the poor working conditions and insecurity and called for decent work provision and protection for migrants, women and other categories of workers.
“We are tired of a world where workers are exposed to worsening health and safety situations with increased cases of deaths and injuries at work.
“We reject a world of work of increased demand for overtime work without commensurate reward. We reject the ascendancy of a work order denoted by casual, contract, or outsourced work.
“We will continue to frown at child labour. We reject forced labour. These industrial infractions violate section 7 of Nigeria’s Labour Act. We say no to a world of work where workers are dumped in the column of ‘expendables’ to be torn apart, trampled upon and tossed aside,” he said.
On top of the labour union’s demands are decent work environments for workers; regularisation of appointments, decent work hours, paid leave, remuneration and regular pension at retirement.
Mr Wabba called for strict adherence to the labour law and demanded stringent penalty be applied to employers flouting the law. He also called on the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, to fast-track the promised revitalisation of the Inspectorate Division of the ministry and reactivation of the National Labour Council (NLAC) for social dialogue.
He also called for tax reforms, so as to reduce social inequality and bring more people into the tax net.
Mr Wabba insisted on the full implementation of the N30,000 national minimum wage.
Speaking at the event, the union leader said they were determined to enforce the regularisation of casual, contract and outsourced workers in line with the labour law.
“As we will exemplify today in a number of workplaces across the country, we will picket recalcitrant employers who have a history of violation of workers’ right to decent work especially those who have made a habit of ‘casualisation,’ outsourcing and denying workers their fundamental human rights of freedom to join trade unions of their choice.
“We will dare you and we win you!” he said.
A call to religious institutions on workers’ welfare
The Chairman of Labour Civil Society Coalition, Ezenwa Nwagwu, called on religious institutions to end the unfair treatment of their workers in the guise of ‘divine authority.’
“It is important to call on church leaders who have employed workers and are paying them wages that cannot sustain or promote them or look forward to something in the future that they are workers too who deserve good living conditions like all of us.
“We should also think about our brothers and sisters who are held in slave camps that are called church administrations who are using divine authority to hold them there without pension, gratuity or promotion,” the Vice President of NLC, Benjamin Anthony, said.
He promised that the leadership of the union would look closely into the matter towards arriving at a resolution before the next celebration of the Day.
FCT will ensure decent working conditions – Minister
The Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Muhammed Bello, while commemorating with the workers, assured them of fair treatment and decent working conditions.
Mr Bello, who was represented by the Director of Operations, Gabriel Attan, said he is committed to improving the living and working conditions of FCT workers.