Stakeholders examine role of equity, social justice in promoting labour productivity
The need to promote values of equity, social justice, fair treatment and equal opportunities to help organisations achieve their objectives and strategies has been brought to the fore.
The move, experts said is by adopting best-in-class industrial relations practices, where the unique interests of every partner/stakeholder (both employers and employees) are fully considered before any action is taken.
Fostering exceptional industrial relations practices, the experts said, would help to contribute to the growth and profitability of organisations.
Speaking during the 7th Triennial National Delegates’ Conference of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) in Abuja, Vice President, Human Resource (HR), Shell Companies in Nigeria, Olukayode Ogunleye, said promoting equity and social justice, requires the participation of both employers and employees.
Ogunleye, who spoke on ‘Equity and Social Justice: Advocacy for Fair Treatment and Equal Opportunities for all Workers’, maintained that employers must lead by example, instituting policies that promote diversity, equity and inclusion (D, E and I).
He said employees, in turn, should also put in their best work and actively uphold the right values.
Noting that employees make up an organisation, he said the values being championed by an organisation could only be as visible as exemplified by its employees.
Emphasising the strategic importance of the energy sector, he said the theme was essential to foster a sustainable and thriving oil and gas industry in Nigeria.
He said it touches the core of collective humanity and served as a clarion call for employees to strive relentlessly for integrity, honesty and respect for people in their respective workplaces.
According to him, equity is the foundation for fairness in the workplace, which demands that all employees, regardless of their backgrounds, be treated with impartiality.
For employers, it is their responsibility to create an environment where every employee has an opportunity to excel and contribute to the organisation’s success.
In such an environment, he said employees must strive to outperform, stating that social justice is the pursuit of a more just workplace, and in the context of the industry, encompasses the responsibility of employers to provide safe working conditions, opportunities for employee voice amplification, mechanisms for raising and addressing workplace grievances, ensuring equal opportunity concerning recruitment and access to career development opportunities, among others.
The HR chief advised that employees, too, must conscientiously advocate for, and pursue, behaviours that foster mutual respect and understanding, seeking the right means to resolve grievances and complaints without undue escalations.
Speaking on the theme too, a senior oil and gas consultant, Dr. Wisdom Enang, while analysing the emerging trends in the nation’s oil and gas sector, hinted at a critical review of the nation’s labour laws, benefits of collective bargaining and casualisation in the oil and gas sector.
He recommended that considering the high percentage of casual staff in the Nigerian workforce, one could confidently conclude that there is no future for Nigerian workers if casual/contract staff is prohibited from union membership.
Noting that casualisation is not bad in itself, however, making equitable laws and policies, ensuring their vigilant enforcement, regulating labour-outsourcing companies, and ensuring access to justice for aggrieved workers, is possible to discourage the exploitation of contract workers.
Giving an analysis of the current labour law, Enang said there is a need for clear definitions of different types of worker in the labour legislation, rather than the mere generic term ‘worker’, to provide employment protection not just for workers engaged in standard permanent employment, but also for those workers engaged in contract labour.
In this way, he said the workers would be protected from unfair labour practices.
According to him, some of the infringements within the Nigerian labour value chain thrive on the ignorance of workers, regarding the legal/legislative protection available to them.
PENGASSAN President, Festus Osifo, said the conference theme reflected the mood of the entire nation, especially “at this period of our national life where the abnormality is wrongly misinterpreted as the new way of doing things (new normal).”
He mentioned how the union had used industrial relations to conclude improved Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) for different branches across the association, increased membership, stood firm with members and ensured that jobs were not lost.
He equally added that the association has fought anti-labour practices and issues that affected its members, the industry and the nation within its capacity and legal framework.
He urged the union leaders to engender growth and development by fostering an enduring industrial harmony, except where it was impossible.