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Senate seeks end to indiscriminate retrenchment of workers 

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Senate seeks end to indiscriminate retrenchment of workers 

Sadiq Umar

Bill seeking to strengthen labour institutions and address the indiscriminate firing and retrenchment of workers by employers in the country, among others, has passed second reading in the Senate

The Labour Institutions (Establishment) Bill, 2021 was sponsored by Senator Sadiq Umar (APC Kwara North), who added that the piece of legislation also seeks  to provide for the establishment of the National Commission for Conciliation and Arbitration, National Labour Council and the office of the Registrar of Trade Unions to administer the provision of labour laws in Nigeria.

 

According to the lawmaker, Trade Disputes in Nigeria are currently governed entirely by the provisions of the Trade Disputes Act Cap T8 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

 

Umar observed that, “the greatest challenge of the present dispute settlement is that the entire process from negotiation, conciliation up to arbitration is domiciled in, activated by and operated by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity.

 

“Under section 9 of the Trade Disputes Act, the Minister appoints the chairman, vice-chairman and all members of the industrial arbitration panel. This scenario is totally at variance With best practices in dispute settlement as it is difficult to see how such a body can be impartial where government is a party.”

 

The lawmaker explained that the objectives of the Bill seek to create labour institutions that are independent, impartial, flexible, simple and functional.

Senate seeks end to indiscriminate retrenchment of workers 

 

He added that the labour institutions when established would, among others, administer the provisions of all labour laws in Nigeria as it affects freedom of association, industrial relations, working conditions, health and occupational safety.

 

The institutions, according to Umar, would also ensure  compliance with the principle of tripartism as enjoined by the International Labour Organisation Convention 144 to which Nigeria is a party and has ratified;  as well as promote the prevention, containment and speedy resolution of labour disputes.

 

Contributing to the debate on the bill, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC Niger North), described the bill as “innovative”, adding that it would address lingering disputes between employers, employees and Labour unions in the country.

 

On his part, the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (APC, Kebbi North) suggested an amendment to the Trade Dispute Act as against establishing a Commission for the purpose complying with the tripartite provisions of the International Labour Organization.

 

Also, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau (APC Kano Central), however, threw his weight behind the establishment of a separate Commission for the settlement of Industrial disputes.

 

“The current situation, whereby it is an arm of the government – Ministry of Labour establishing the Arbitration panel – which in the end, most of the Labour Union still see it as discussing with the same government.

 

“Because the Arbitration panel is usually appointed by the government, most of the argument of the Labour union is that they are discussing with the same party (ie the government) with which they have the dispute”, he said.

 

The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, thereafter, referred the bill to the Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity for further work and was given two weeks to report back.

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