Senate has began consideration of a bill aimed at controlling labour unions with a view to ending the recurring labour disputes, leading to incessant industrial actions by workers in the country.
The bill also seeks to administer the provisions of all labour laws in Nigeria as it affects freedom of association, industrial relations, working conditions, health and occupational safety.
The bill titled: “An Act to Establish the National Commission for Conciliation and Arbitration, National Labour Council, and Office of the Registrar of Trade Unions to Administer the Provisions of Labour Laws in Nigeria’ is being sponsored by Senator Suleiman Nazif (APC Bauchi North).
Reading his lead paper on the bill during yesterday’s plenary, Senator Nazif explained that he was motivated to come out with the bill given the incessant labour disputes which he noted, have always had a toll on the nation’s economy.
But he said the objective of the bill was to create labour institutions that were independent, impartial, flexible, simple and functional.
The senator stressed that the bill, when passed into law, will also administer the provisions of all labour laws in Nigeria as it affects freedom of association, industrial relations, working conditions, health and occupational safety.
He said the bill will also promote the prevention, containment and speedy resolution of labour disputes.
He noted 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, adding that the bill will critically address poor relationship that exists between employers and employees in the country where trade dispute in the country is governed by the provisions of the trade disputes Act Cap T8 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
“The National Commission for Conciliation and Arbitration proposed under this bill will provide a unique opportunity for Nigeria to join the rest of the world in inculcating international best practices in labour dispute resolutions.
“This Bill before us today, will tremendously position the country’s work environment for maximum productivity. It will also end decades of workers oppression and abuse by extension this legislation will compel employers of labour to conform to the provisions of International Labour Organisation (ILO).
“The substance behind this unbiased piece of legislation is to guide labour activities from all ramifications, in addition, boost service and productivity and also reposition the country as a nation that values its workforce,” he said
Nazif explained that in most developed countries like Australian Industrial Relations Commissions and others have commissions outside the traditional court system to regulate and administer dispute settlement mechanisms in all facets of their economy be it commercial, industrial or labour relations.
Also, Senator Ibn Na’Allah, APC, Kebbi South, noted that there is no way any country will be conducive enough for flow of investment without a stable labour organisation where certain instrumentality that have to do with determining the civil rights and obligations of citizens of this country, stressing under section 39 of our constitution will not augur well for ministers and agencies of government to determine the current state of our development.
“Section 39 is very clear on this matter and it confers rights on citizens of this country where in the sense in the determination of their civil rights and obligation it shall be done by a court or tribunal that is constituted in such a manner as to secure its independent and impartiality,” he said.
In his submission, Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki said the bill is timely and appropriate because these laws are obsolete and they are not in conformity with the economy and environment.
“We need to amend this bill and appropriate to bring in line especially the focus in creating the right business partner where they must have the right labour relations, “he noted.
Saraki, therefore directed the committee on Employment Labour and Productivity to report back within four weeks.