NLC canvasses recovery, resilience plans for post-COVID-19 era

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has called on the Federal Government to put in place a recovery and resilience plan that would create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive in the post-COVID-19 era.

Mr Ayuba Wabba, NLC President, made the call during the celebration of the 2020 World Decent Work Day on Wednesday in Abuja.

The 2020 World Decent Work Day has “A New Social Contract for Recovery and Resilience” as its theme.

Wabba said that the novel COVID-19 pandemic had “exposed the inadequacies of the current flawed economic model of globalisation occasioned by wealth accumulation and lack of social justice in the country`’.

He said that it was necessary for government to put in place such plans in order to withstand further shocks from the resurgence of fresh outbreaks of COVID-19 and other health and socio-economic dislocations.

“We were already faced with the prevalence of massive income inequality, racial injustice and gender discrimination in addition to the destruction resulting from extreme weather events due to climate change.

“We were also confronted with the choices associated with the best and worst impacts of technology, devoid of a rights base.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant risks to economies and societies are very palpable.

“There is no other sphere that the impact of the COVID-19 was more brutally felt than the world of work.

“Currently, apart from the health fatalities affecting workers, more than 400 million jobs have been lost to the pandemic,” he said.

Wabba noted that in Nigeria, COVID-19 only compounded the frail shape of an already existing fragility in the industrial space and associated social support system.

The NLC president further said that many employers of labour had latched on to the economic slow-down to vent their venom on poor workers with many workplaces effecting massive layoffs, retrenchments and retirements.

“We recall that upon the first phase of the easing of the lockdown, Access Bank fired 800 of its staff. Access Bank was only testing the waters as other banks were already primed to follow suit.

“It took the intervention of the NLC to halt the anti-workers purge in our banking sector and indeed other sectors of the national economy.

“We wondered what happened to the surplus profits realised from the toil and sweat of workers when the going was good.

“We also reached out to the employers in the private sector through the auspices of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA).

“The fruit of that strategic engagement was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Job Protection,” he said.

He said organised Labour and the House of Representatives had put together an Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill 2020, but admitted that the measures currently put in place to safeguard jobs and employment were only short to medium term.

“A lasting and fundamental approach to dealing with the workplace dislocations occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the huge gale of indecent work, is to demand for a new social contract.

“A new social contract anchored on shared prosperity and social justice is central to charting the path to recovery from the effects COVID-19.

“This is an important step in offering hope to working people all over the world,” he said.

Wabba called on the Federal Government to design a recovery plan that rebuilds the social contract between government and societies and hoisted on the foundations of resilience.

He added that Nigeria must ensure that Decent Work was at the centre of government actions to bring back economic growth and build a new global economy that puts people and the planet first.

“In this wise, we call on the Nigerian government and governments around the world to put in place recovery and resilience plans which prioritise jobs, secured employment, workplace rights, income protection and minimum living wages.

“Others include occupational safety and health, and universal social protection, especially basic income, for workers in the informal sector, the sick, the elderly and for those without employment.

“In pursuit of a new social contract that guarantees Decent Work, we also call for the universal right to freedom of association and collective bargaining and provisions for safe workplaces in tandem with global best practices.

“We must also call for equality and inclusion, especially through equal economic participation of women, all racial groups, migrant workers and young workers.

“This is with a guarantee that these vulnerable segments of the workforce are protected from any form of discrimination, harassment and violence in line with Convention 190 of the International Labour Organisation.

“Organised Labour demand these as basic minimum fundamental rights of working persons in the formal and informal sectors,” he said.

Wabba further said that this would create an enabling broader environment for the sustenance of the fundamental rights at work places.

“We also call for a rejig of the world economic system. We also demand that Just Transitions for climate and technology should be central in economic planning and policy framing.

“It is on the basis of the foregoing that we insist that Decent Work, through a New Social Contract, is non-negotiable,” he said.

He, however, called on trade unions to rededicate themselves to the pursuit of Decent Work in all workplaces.

He added that pursuing decent work was not only a just task, but also a divine mandate.

“We must rally together to stamp out every vestige of casualisation of labour, unjust wages and the denial of workers’ fundamental rights to form, join and participate in the activities of trade unions,” he said.

He called on government to ensure that the commanding heights of the economy must not be left in a few hands but must be managed by government in the interest of the majority of citizens.

“It is on this note that we insist that government must respect the terms of the recent agreement signed with labour, especially with regards to the overhauling of our national refineries.

“We also demand the reversal of the failed privatisation of our power sector. We insist that government has business in business,” he declared. (NAN)


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