Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Stakeholders Condemn Reduction of Work Days in Benue, Imo and Sokoto

Labour leaders, lawyers, and other stakeholders have condemned the move by Benue, Imo and Sokoto to reduce the working hours and days in their states.

They told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in separate interviews that the development was illegal, unconstitutional and a fundamental breach of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention.

NAN reports that Gov. Samuel Ortom of Benue had directed civil servants to use Fridays for farming, while Gov. Rochas Okorocha of Imo pushed for a law that provides for three days for work and two days for farming.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President, Ayuba Wabba, told NAN that “the policy is against all know labour laws and international treaties of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

“It something that we have already rejected and condemned, you cannot force people to go into farming.

“Even, if you will to do that, it must be through a process of consultation because these workers are not slaves.

“In industrial relations, the issue of consultation, collective bargaining is used before a policy is actually adopted and in this respect there was no consultation,’’ Wabba said.

He said that the new public work policy of Imo government was in conflict with the National Labour Law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Wabba said that national law stipulated eight hours for work per day and 40 hours of work per week which was in accordance with the ILO standard.

He said that the governor was known for non-payment of salaries to workers and that this might be strategy in the long run to cut down payment.

“Workers in that state are working under very serious conditions that are in human and therefore certainly, it is going to affect productivity.

He warned that any state government that tried to enforce workers to act against the ILO convention or labour law of the country would be resisted.

Mr Ikechukwu Nwafor, NLC Chairman in Ebonyi, said the action was unconstitutional and against the ILO Convention which Nigeria is a signatory.

According to him, no governor under the Nigerian constitution is empowered to either review downward or upward the work hours or days expected to put in by the employees.

Nwafor said: “The crisis and economic losses that the policy will generate will be unimaginable because reducing the work hours means reducing productivity.’’

He said that the policy was not implementable due to the lack of incentives that would boost the programme and ensure its success.

He said that absence of dams for irrigation purposes which remains a critical component for effective agriculture, has not been taken into consideration.

In the same vein, an Umuahia-based legal practitioner, Mr Emenike Azubuike, described the act to reduce the working days in a week by any governor as “ultra vires’’.

Azubuike said that the constitution did not confer on governors such powers, adding that to initiate such a policy “means acting beyond the powers conferred on them by the law.

“There is no law backing the governors to reduce the number of working days in a week. So, it is an abuse of power for any governor to do so.”

He noted that there is a subsisting social contract between the government and the employees.
He said that it would be a breach of the contract “for any governor to wake up one morning and choose to alter the terms of the contract unilaterally’’.

He further said that the governor would also be committing an infraction of the law on minimum wage “if he thinks he would reduce the minimum wage by such a policy’’.
He described the policy as “draconian’’, saying that “it cannot work.’’

Mr Olubunmi Fajobi, the TUC Chairman in Ogun, told NAN that it was unacceptable for a governor to reduce work hours just to force workers into agriculture.
He argued that workers were free to engage in any legal activity of their choice outside the work hours.
“What a worker does off work hours is a function of his volition and cannot be determined by any sitting governor,” he said.
He, however, said that any worker, who voluntarily desired to use his spare time for agriculture should be encouraged and supported to do so without any form of enforcement.


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