BRIEF REMARKS BY CONGRESS PRESIDENT, COMRADE AYUBA WABBA, mni, AT THE MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING SIGNING CEREMONY BETWEEN THE NIGERIA EMPLOYERS’ CONSULTATIVE ASSOCIATION (NECA) AND THE NIGERIA LABOUR CONGRESS, AND THE TRADE UNION CONGRESS HOLDING ON THE 15TH OF JUNE, 2020 AT THE COMMITTEE ROOM OF LABOUR HOUSE
On behalf of Organized labour in Nigeria, I welcome you to this very important and significant event. We are here for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association representing employers in the private sector and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) representing trade unions and organized labour in Nigeria.
Today’s event is another testament to the growth and development of social dialogue, cooperation and tripartism in Nigeria. This is borne out of the understanding that businesses and workers are Siamese twins with mutually shared interests and aspirations.
Unfortunately, nothing has in recent times threatened the shared interests and aspirations of both employers of labour and workers like the novel corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. The disease had successfully put the entire global socio-economic system on almost complete lockdown for the past three months. The impact on businesses, workers and livelihood has been monumental. According to a report released by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in March 2020, 25 million people globally were expected to lose their jobs to the pandemic. I am sure that figure was based on early assessment of the Covid-19 situation.
Ladies and gentlemen, these are dire times. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on health and business is humungous. The urgency of the situation at hand informed the resolve of social partners in Nigeria – Employers’ and Workers’ Organizations to work together on developing a shared perspective and resolve aimed at mitigating the storms ahead.
It is gratifying that this MoU has successfully identified critical areas of mutual needs, collaboration and efforts that would enable the social partners address the fallout of Covid-19 in our country. The overarching aim is to promote the health of Nigerians, boost productivity, protect jobs and preserve the means of livelihood for millions of Nigerians.
As organized labour, our major concerns going forward include job security, rights at work, social protection and occupational health and safety for all workers in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Already thousands of workers especially the frontline workers have fallen victim to the Covid-19 infection. While we continue to call on government and private sector employers to provide adequate protective and preventive facilities at the workplace, we will use the framework of this MoU to ensure that workers who fall ill are supported through paid sick leave to recover and be reinstated safely to their positions at work. We will also defend existing social protection nets such as pension and gratuity.
Given the need to boost productivity and economic growth at this time, we will continue to work with NECA to put pressure on government to provide businesses with palliatives, grants and fiscal support incentives including downward review of tax and interest rates in order to give businesses the breathing space to maintain production at pre-Covid-19 level and be able to keep jobs and income. The target sectors include Aviation, Hospitality, Tourism, Manufacturing, Transportation etc.
We will also work with employers in the private sector through the social dialogue process to prevent further loss of jobs in Nigeria, uphold pristine occupation health and safety standards and ensure the promotion of enterprise competitiveness, decent jobs, employment creation and the economic prosperity of Nigeria.
Given the broad nature of the challenges thrown up by Covid-19, we will continue to support government to safeguard the health of all Nigerians since it is only a healthy population that can guarantee a healthy workforce and in turn the best returns on productivity.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni