On behalf of the supervising Minister, the Honourable Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, the Chairman Governing Council, Chief Frank Ovie Kokori, Governing Council members, Management and entire staff of the Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS), Ilorin, I warmly welcome you all to 2021 World Day for Decent Work (WDDW).
October 7 every year is Decent Work Day. It was declared by the International Labour Organization (ILO). It promotes global awareness against Precarious Work and the need for Decent work. ILO is a tripartite U.N. agency made of employers, government and workers’ representatives. It is the oldest UN agency established in 1919 which brings together governments, employers and workers of 187 member states, “to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men”.
WHAT IS DECENT WORK?
Today MINILS joins global mobilization for decent work.
Decent work means productive, rewarding and protected work. Decent work must be at the centre of government actions to bring back economic growth and build a new global economy that puts people first.
Governments should heed the call from working women and men for decent wages, safe and secure jobs, and an end to greedy corporations setting the rules of the economy. This means ensuring that minimum wage-floors must be enough to ensure a decent standard of living, and that all workers must have the right to join a union and bargain collectively. Decent work is employment that “respects the fundamental rights of the human person as well as the rights of workers in terms of conditions of work safety and remuneration. … respect for the physical and mental integrity of the worker in the exercise of his/her employment.”[1
2021 assumes special importance for us in Nigeria for three reasons. Firstly, it’s comes barely a week Nigeria marked 61st anniversary of independence from centuries of British colonialism. Fraternal Happy Independence anniversary greetings to you all !!!! Last Friday, MINILS organized inter-faith anniversary prayers for security and prosperity of our dear country. In the next two weeks, the Institute organizes a conversation around nation-building to compliment the one-year program of Activities announce by the Federal Government to mark Silver Jubilee (60th years) of independence anniversary.
COLONIALISM VIOLATED HUMAN RIGHTS
What has independence anniversary got to do with Decent Work Day? The point cannot be overstated that one notorious feature of Colonialism was precarious work. Colonialism in Nigeria just like apartheid in South Africa thrived on cheap slave labour. Britain deliberately underdeveloped Nigeria through criminal and wanton violations of trade union and human rights.
As a labour policy, colonial administration used convict and forced labour for construction and other infrastructural activities. Some private employers refused to pay salaries at all. For instance, in 1949, 21 Enugu Coal Miners were killed by Lord Lugard colonial authorities for demanding improved working and living conditions. The struggle for Decent Work led to the emergence of Comrade Michael Imoudu, NO 1 labour leader of the Nigeria Union of Railwaymen ( NUR). Imoudu waged series of struggles against precarious work. He led 45 days strike over cost of Living Allowance (COLA) which in turn set the agenda for struggle for independence. It is clear therefore that observance of WDDW is invariably an observance of independence from British colonial oppression. Indeed it was the independence constitution of 1960 that proclaimed trade union and human rights in Nigeria.
Secondly this year marks the 13th anniversary of the World Day for Decent Work (WDDW). It started in 2008. In 2008 MINILS had organized a dialogue on the decent work agenda and the decent work country programme for Nigeria with the theme “Furthering National Development Through Decent Work Strategies: Appraising the Role of the Social Partners”.
WDDW HAS COME TO STAY
But this is the maiden observance of WDDW. It will now be annual an event as part of our corporate social responsibility to our stakeholders that include organized labour, employers and governments. I have also directed that in 2022 calendar all programmes in October would focus on all aspects of Decent work. Special appreciation goes to the ILO new country Director, Vanessa Phala for the support for today’s activities.
HAIL NLC AND TUC ON FIGHT FOR DECENT WORK
I commend the NLC under the Presidents of Comrade Ayuba Wabba and Trade Union Congress (TUC ) for standing up for the defence of worker’s rights and keeping faith with WDDW. I also use this opportunity to commend President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal government for upholding the rights of workers with respect to improved salaries, freedom of association and rights of unions to free collective bargaining. The signing into law the new minimum wage of N30,000 in 2019, the extension of contributory pension to informal sector, bail outs for states to meet their salary obligations, retention of labour market issues on exclusive list of 1999 constitution despite pressures from some state governments, the proposed Teachers Retirement Bill granting retirement age of teachers and education officers from 60 to 65 years and 35 to 40 years of service are some of the labour friendly policies of the President. MINILS commends President Buhari and the Federal Executive Council, FEC, for approving a 14-day paternity leave to make men bond with their newborn baby and share the burden of domestic work with working mothers. MINILS calls on relevant ministries, MDAs and government agencies to emulate President Buhari in defending labour standards as contained in relevant ILO conventions and recommendations.
MINILS salutes the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) for suspending its nationwide strike across Nigeria after 64 days following the intervention of the President and Vice President. We call on the Ministers of health to speedily resume negotiation with the doctors to avoid another round of avoidable and preventable strike.
MINILS is set to convoke a national social dialogue on conflict resolutions at work to prevent incessant threats of lock outs, work stoppages and strikes. Also the Institute in partnership with the ILO will help to build capacity for trade unions and government human resource personnel.
DECENT WORK IN PANDEMIC
Thirdly 2021 Day of Decent Work takes place within the context of the global Covid:19 pandemic. Covid:19 has further made work and life more unsecured with attendant impact on jobs and workers. The International Trade Union Congress (ITUC) has indicated that over 200 million jobs were lost to COVID-19, adding that another 100 million workers were at risk of job losses. IndustriALL Global Union of which I used to be Vice President puts its better in its Action Plan 2021-2025) that: “Since the beginning of the novel coronavirus crisis, everything has changed, but in reality nothing has changed.” The Covid-19 pandemic has affected workers and communities differently.
OVERCOMING CRISIS OF COMPENSATION
Both MINILS and National Salaries and Wages Commission had concluded arrangement to hold zonal workshop on the wages and wage related issues with o view of promoting knowledge on wage determination process.
SUPPORT FOR TEACHERS
CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME
All outsourced workers will hence forth earn minimum wage in MINILS.
No more delayed payment of entitlements of workers, retired and active.
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