By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has disclosed that its intervention saved over 800 bank workers from being sacked during the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said this yesterday while addressing journalists on the occasion of the 2020 World Decent Work Day.
Wabba explained that COVID-19 was “brutally felt in the world of work”.
He lamented that more than 400 million jobs have been lost to the pandemic globally.
The labour leader said, “Many employers of labour have latched on this economic slow-down to vent their venom on poor workers with many workplaces effecting massive layoffs, retrenchment and retirement.
“We would recall upon the first phase of the easing of the lockdown, a bank fired 800 of its staff. The bank was only testing the waters as other banks were already primed to follow suit. It took the intervention of the Nigeria Labour Congress to halt the anti-workers purge.
“Through the instrumentality of the Labour Civil Society Situation Room on COVID-19 which we set up both at the national level and in all our state councils, Congress wrote strongly worded letters to the Federal Government, the Central Bank of Nigeria and other regulatory agencies warning of the dire consequences of offering workers as the sacrificial lamb during the pandemic.
“We wondered what happened to the surplus profits realised from the toil and sweat of workers when the going was good. We also reached out to the employers in the private sector through the auspices of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association.
“The fruit of that strategic engagement was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for Job Protection.
“It is gratifying that the federal government and the regulatory agencies listened to the voice of reason and halted the move to bleed the workforce in Nigeria of thousands of jobs. The Central Bank of Nigeria placed an embargo on the termination of employment in our banking sector.
“In order to create an enabling environment for businesses to recover and become resilient post-COVID-19 lockdown phase and in response to the demand of Organized Labour in Nigeria, the House of Representatives put together an Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill 2020, which seeks to protect the employment status of Nigerians by providing tax breaks to employers who do not lay off employees during the prevalence of the novel corona disease in Nigeria.”
He also called on the Nigerian government and governments around the world to put in place recovery and resilience plans which prioritise jobs, secured employment, workplace rights, income protection, minimum living wages, occupational safety and health, and universal social protection especially basic income for workers in the informal sector, the sick, the elderly and for those without employment.