The organised labour in Nigeria says governments over the years have put in place measures or policies that directly impeded all freedom and right of workers to associate.
Addressing the media on the sideline of the on going one hundred and eleventh Session of the International Labour Conference ILC, in Geneva, Switzerland, President of the Trade Union congress of Nigeria TUC Festus Osifo, said the action by the government was no longer acceptable.
He said that disobeying court orders especially when workers’ unions come out victorious has been the order of the day by successive governments in Nigeria and said that it must be stopped.
He spoke on the face off between the Lagos State government in South west Nigeria and one of its affiliate Unions, the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, RTEAN which was banned by the government even after the association won the legal battle lifting the ban.
Osifo said the refusal by the Lagos State government to obey the court order lifting the ban on RTEAN is one of the reasons the TUC is attending the ILC m meeting.
He said, “So for us, we felt that this is the right forum to express our displeasure on what the Lagos State government is doing back home but will continuously engage them, will continuously push them to ensure that they do what is right.
“As you are aware, the position of chapter forty of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that gave us freedom of right for association and also freedom to unionise.”
He said that what the Lagos State government as far as that matter was concern was a gross abuse of the Constitution.
“Clearly tat stabs the provisions of ILO because over the years, ILO has been championing the right for workers to organise.
“They are the champion over the years for the freedom of association of workers globally,” Osifo said.
Turning to the banking industry in the country, the Congress said that most banks in Nigeria are refusing their workers to organise and belong to associations that would protect their interest in that sector and in this case, the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions, ASSBIFI or the junior staff, National Association of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions which are affiliate of the TUC.
According to him, “to strangulate them, they do everything possible to prevent them from joining the union when they are being employed.
“According to our laws, most especially when its the senior staff unions, you opt in, you know, so unlike the junior staff, you know, where you opt out.
Osifo disclosed that a particular bank recently sacked about 40 of its members without sitting down with the Union to discuss rules of disengagement, saying that will not be acceptable.
“They refuse to sit down with the union executives for us to have conversations on the property code that they will go away with.
“We are not averse to employers carrying out redundancy but for us, the redundancy must be carried out in good faith.
“You cannot declare redundancy where you have a lot of jobs. You cannot declare redundancy on the permanent staff and you are not casualising same jobs that you have declared redundancy, he said.
Osifo also spoke on the growing case of casualisation of workers and its implications which he said include denial of some benefits like maternity leaves for women.
“Today, we have a new government in Nigeria and we are looking forward to who will be the Minister of Labour because for us that is key.
“We want somebody that truly understands the yearnings of the workers. We want somebody who truely understands the yearnings of the organised labour, someone who will be able to advocate for the Nigerian workers before the government.
“Such a person should be at the helms of affairs of the labour ministry, someone that understands our pains and understand the plight of workers in Nigeria in general,” the TUC President added.