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Pressure mounts on Nigeria to ratify ILO convention 190

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International Labour Organisation Director-General, Guy Ryder

•As stakeholders worry about ministry, NLC inaction

Pressure is mounting on national governments across the world to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention on violence and harassment in the work environment (C190).

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Workers unions are convinced that the ratification of C190 would help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the working population.

This comes as Nigeria originates actions to ratify the convention with the recent approval of the National Labour Advisory Council ( NLAC) to the ministry of Labour and Employment to initiate the necessary communication process to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) that will result in the eventual ratification of the convention.

The Guardian gathered that NLAC also gave the ministry approval to initiate communication process on other conventions such as the private employment agencies convention; migrant labour supplementary convention; and framework for occupational safety and health.

By NLAC’ s approval, the Ministry of Labour and Employment is expected to convey verbal communication of approval for Nigeria to ratify ILO C190 to the Federal Executive Council (FEC), who will direct the Ministry of Justice to perfect the proposal in the form of a bill for onward transmission to the National Assembly for the eventual ratification process.

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Even as the reactivation of NLAC and its recommendations on ILO C190 has been welcomed with so much excitement, The Guardian gathered that there are worries amongst the tripartite bodies that not much is still being done presently to indicate Nigeria is on the right track.

Already, Gender workers, activists and Gender-Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH) survivors are worried that the total absence of specific and measurable timelines for delivery of certain activities needed to actualise the ratification was still missing in the conversation with the country’s Ministry of Labour while the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) are also yet to fully mainstream gender-based violence and harassment in their conversations with government and other social partners.

According to them, the federal ministry of Labour and Employment will have to do more than it is currently doing by attaching clear timelines to all the deliverables so that women workers can have a clear roadmap to the eventual ratification of ILO convention 190.

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A GBVH survivor noted: “It is gratifying to see that one of the first tasks that NLAC undertook was on ILO Convention 190, but that in itself will not lead to the ratification of the convention. We need a collective resolution from all stakeholders to work at preventing GBVH through quick action at ratifying and domesticating this convention. The Ministry of Labour should attach measurable timelines to all the tasks that are necessary to achieve the ratification. Even as we work towards ratification, engagement with the tripartite bodies ought to be going on right now to make workplaces safer for women workers in both formal and informal economy but that is yet to happen.”

While appreciating the work labour leaders have been doing amid huge challenges in the country, some survivors who spoke on conditions of anonymity are also concerned that the conversations labour leaders are having presently mostly revolve around fuel price and the issue of minimum wage with no mention of GBVH which is taking an enormous toll on the lives of women workers, especially with COVID 19 pandemic.

They observed that though minimum wage and fuel price hike are indeed very important issues to raise with the government but equally important is the gender-based violence and harassment issue that is on an alarming increase in the country.

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According to the ILO’s Information System on International Labour Standards (NORMLEX), Argentina, Fiji, Namibia, Somalia and Ecuador have ratified the convention.

IndustriALL claimed data shows domestic violence has exploded during the pandemic, saying, “trade unions are reporting cases where women have been asked for sexual favours in return for equipment to protect against COVID-19. The past shows that women are at an even elevated risk of abuse and quid-pro-quo sexual harassment and during an economic downturn and when jobs are fewer.

ILO Convention No. 190 is the first international treaty to address violence and harassment in the world of work.

On his part, the Director-General of the ILO, Guy Ryder said: “The framework provided by Convention No. 190 is, more than ever, of utmost importance during the current COVID-19 pandemic, since many forms of work-related violence and harassment have been reported across countries since the outbreak began.”

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