Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies, (MINILS), recently organised a National Labour Summit for stakeholders in the industry.Linda Eroke writes that participants at the summit pushed for well-designed national social protection systems to protect the most vulnerable groups.
Major stakeholders in the Nigerian industrial relations system last Thursday converged on Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies, (MINILS), Ilorin for the eighth edition of its annual National Labour Relations Summit and Fellowship Award.
The Summit with theme "Social Security, Labour Relations and the Transformation Agenda: Extending Social Protection in Nigeria" provided a forum for exchange among the diverse labour and employment relations' interest in the country.
Participants at the summit reiterated the need for all actors in the nation's industrial relations system to assist in driving the social policy agenda of the present administration even as they pushed for well-designed national social protection systems to protect the most vulnerable groups.
Global focus on Social Protection
In his welcome address, Director General of MINILS, Dr. Niyi Olanrewaju, said the theme of the summit was carefully chosen to match strategic national development efforts with current emphasis on global policy disclosure.
He explained that there is now consensus that social protection issues need to be given serious attention within the context of development processes adding that the summit will address the need to evolve progressive social models in which industrial relations actors will function as active participants.
This, he said will help to advance the cause of social protection and development in the country.
"I am aware that these ideals are adept to the transformation agenda of the federal government, as well as to the massive programmatic expressions and effort to actualise this policy by the federal ministry of labour and employment. It should gladden you to learn that the institute is also applying itself to these broad national development concerns and strategies, within the context of its mandate. We have gone ahead in the course of this year, to mainstream emphasis on this theme by way of refocusing our training and research activities," he said.
In his address, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, said the theme of the summit was very apt in view of progressive social policies which have been at the heart of monumental economic growth and development of countries considered to be the dominant players in contemporary global politics and economics.
He noted that the vision of progressive change is the major thrust of the transformation agenda of the present administration.
Dialogue and consensus building
He explained that the federal government through the labour ministry has been encouraging dialogue and consensus building as standard procedure in terms of its governance strategy, while assuring that government is committed to regular engagement with industrial relations actions in order to ensure industrial peace and harmony.
"I am aware that a crucial aspect of the transformation agenda has to do with relations with the diverse actors and interests in the Nigerian industrial relations system, particularly labour and employers. The administration of President Goodluck Jonathan regards these categories as partners in development, and remains convinced of the need to involve them in social policy matters.
"In terms of concrete efforts of the labour ministry in the area of social protection, you are aware of our various robust interventions to ensure the mainstreaming of the new minimum wage law. The ministry remains active in the field, facilitating dialogues between employers and workers at different levels, with the aim of ensuring adequate compensation and income security for workers.
"I am aware of the role of law in terms of advancing the cause of social protection in the country. That is why we have been encouraging the review of our labour laws to ensure emergence of the appropriate legal environment which supports social protection reforms. This is precisely what we have done with the Employees Compensation Act of 2010, which is a notable outcome of this process," Wogu stated.
Speaking further, Wogu hinted that the ministry is currently repositioning the relevant agencies in order to be able to effectively play their in providing social protection functions in the areas of compensations for injuries, support for medical care and housing loan schemes for workers.
Within the social protection framework, Wogu pledged that the ministry would actively participate in various initiatives and collaborations, as part of activities leading to the review of the Pension Reform Act 2004.
He added that Nigeria will continue to observe the terms of various protocols which it has committed to, including conventions and recommendations of the ILO as well as follow through with their provisions.
"This is our reflex as it concerns the new ILO recommendation on social protection floors. Our goal in all of this, is to ensure that we embed guarantees within the system that help in mitigating contingencies, in a manner that the net asset worth of the worker and his quality of life is not adversely affected," he added.
Role of social actors
In his speech, Governor of Abia State, Dr. Theodore Orji, submitted that driving social policy transformation agenda depends on the intervening activities of not just the government but on activities of trade unions and employers.
He emphasised that any attempt to transform and reposition the labour relations system, which he said is now taking a center stage must begin by addressing the critical perception and needs of workers as key stakeholders, especially those in the public sector, which constitute the mass of the nation employers and unionised workers.
According to him, any nation that seriously desires to reduce poverty and improve on its socio-economic development must approach these through improving on its social policy and labour relations, especially the unification of the processes, through implementable legislations.
He said though the present administration had demonstrated its seriousness in transforming the social policy and labour relations of the economy, there should be a sound policy focus on the poor, that provides measures and remedies that would ensure that subsidies meant for the poor "do not end up high-jacked by those in the society that can do without them".
"Other areas of the transformation that can further extend protection to Nigerian workers, require policy focus on improving the well-being of Nigerian policy and reducing excessive inequality in the access to basic economic needs and education, which are known to breed conflicts in our society.
"Also, our social policy framework should adopt a special focus on the young people of our society, the vulnerable individuals-employed and unemployed, and fully integrate their needs into the nation's development strategy," he added.