Every worker, whether an employee in the private or public sector of the economy, is free to join a trade union of his or her choice, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige has said.
Drawing inspiration from the principles, conventions and recommendations of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Nigeria’s labour laws, the Minister said Nigeria must align itself with all the ILO principles in workplaces, including the principles of strike and picketing.
He reaffirmed this position during a two-day tripartite harmonisation and validation of reviewed Labour bills in Abuja.
Presenting a keynote address, Ngige said: “We need to draw the line so that people will know when they cross the other person’s line. No employer is supposed to interfere in the election of officers of a union or prevent workers from unionization, except the organisations that have been mentioned and given this exemption all over the world, which are domesticated in our labour laws.”
However, Ngige was quick to caution workers against dabbling into appointments into government positions that are exclusively a reserve of the President or in collaboration with the National Assembly as the case may be.
According to the Minister, except in areas where the Constitution tells Mr President to share this appointment procedure with the National Assembly by sending names of appointees for screening and confirmation, no other person except the National Assembly could tell him who to appoint or not.
He disclosed that Nigeria was poised to ratify the ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment (2019), to address violence and harassment against women and men at work through standard legislation, workplace policies, and initiatives on safety and wellbeing at work.
He revealed that the convention has moved to the Federal cabinet secretariat and would be taken any moment from now to the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
He said the reviewed Labour Bills would be validated at the meeting and sent to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval and afterwards, the council would direct the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice to transmit the reviewed Labour laws to the National Assembly for passage.
“The bills include the Labour Standards Bill to repeal the Labour Act, CAP L1, LFN, 2004 and the Collective Labour Relations Bill to repeal the Trade Union Act CAP T14 and T15 LFN, 2004, Trade Disputes Act, CAP T8 and T9, Trade Union Affiliation, and Trade Union Essential Services.
“We are also trying to enact the Occupational Safety and Health Bill to repeal the Factories Act CAP F1 LFN, 2004 and Labour Institutions Bill to create the National Commission for Conciliation and Arbitration as well as strengthen other existing institutions,” he explained.
He maintained that the harmonization and validation underscore the Federal Government’s continuous commitment to fulfilling its obligations as a member state of ILO and ensuring best practices in labour administration and decent work for all.