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Stakeholders charge labour unions to protect workers rights

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Eminent Nigerians have called on Labour Unions to ensure that the rights of workers are adequately protected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This, they said is to ensure that employers of labour do not hide under the pandemic to sack workers unjustly, adding that such would foist more hardship on many already struggling families.

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The stakeholders are Prof of Botany, Omotoye Olorode, a Professor of Medicine and Cardiology, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Rasaaq Adebayo, activist lawyer, Femi Aborisade, among others.

They spoke during a zoom conference titled: “challenges to workers rights protection during the COVID-19 pandemic and the way forward for the labour unions”, which was organised by International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW), in conjunction with Centre for Labour Studies (CLS) and Frederich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nigeria.

Olorode urged Nigeria’s trade unions and their allies to respond to the two viruses, which according to him are the Nigerian ruling class and COVID-19. 

According to him, job insecurity is now a big challenge, as COVID-19 pandemic has become an excuse for employers to abandon workers.

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He said: “A former president of Nigeria who runs a presidential library has sacked a lot of workers under the name of COVID-19 pandemic, and many of the workers said they have been owed a large number of salaries even before they were sacked. So sacking them has nothing to do with COVID-19. It was only used as an excuse.

“Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike since March and government still haven’t paid workers their COVID-19 allowances and lecturers are being paid amputated salaries.”

He suggested that the way forward is for the trade union to collaborate with all “allies of the oppressed” to overcome the challenges by mounting pressure, by all means necessary, on the ruling class to alleviate the disabilities they (ruling class and pandemic) imposed on all the oppressed citizens by way of the existing political, economic and cultural conditions that subvert the interests of the poor. 

Also, Prof. Adebayo, who spoke on the “right to health and labour rights for medical workers under COVID-19 pandemic” stated that many of Nigeria’s doctors don’t get a job when they graduate. He added that even the few employed doctors are underpaid and overworked.  

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According to him, the way forward is to discourage government officials from making use of hospitals abroad, as using local hospitals will give them an insight of the deficiency of our health sector. “Those involved in medical tourism can use all those money to improve on our health services here,” he stated.

Aborisade said the federal government has in the name of COVID-19, actually mobilized about N40 trillion as against the N2 trillion they claimed to have mobilised.

According to him, the amount is almost equivalent to the US Marshall plan meant for the economic recovery in the whole of Europe. “It shows that there’s a lot that can be done with funds that have been mobilized,” he said.      

Aborisade said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is asking for more time to respond to Mr. Femi Falana’s freedom of information Act request on how it disbursed N340billion across various sectors.

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He, therefore, challenged Nigerians to see COVID-19 funds as a weapon of war in the hands of the ruling class, to dispossess the masses of their commonwealth and to enrich the businesses of the ruling class.

“The wellbeing of ordinary people is being threatened by COVID-19 because of all manner of punitive policies such as threatened privatization of the remaining public assets, job and wage cut, non-payment of salaries, non-payment of COVID-19 allowances to medical workers, non-implementation of the N30, 000 minimum wage, increase in electricity tariff, rise in fuel price, multiple taxations, and so on,” he declared. 

Another speaker, Adeyemo Ajibade said the pandemic has actually exposed all the inadequacies in our system.

“There is a very urgent need for well-meaning Nigerians to actually come together and mobilize the masses and create that political class that will be able to upstage whatever is in the system because definitely this is not taking us anywhere in this country and there is an urgent need for us to create that political class,” he said.

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