The President General of National Union of Civil Engineering, Construction, Furniture and Wood Workers (NUCECFWW), Comrade Amechi Festus Asugwuni, says it is only when Government Policy tweaks in the business environment by creating jobs, social inclusion and sustainable growth that there will be improved industrial diversification and innovation.
Asugwuni in an interview with Senior Correspondent, Sylvester Enoghase, insists that the inadequacy of a reactive approach to the problem is illustrated by the low survival rates of victims here in Nigeria when compared to those in countries with developed and functioning healthcare systems. Excerpts:
Could please comment on the recent commendations and vote of confidence passed by your union on your leaders over the union’s victory on casualization and contract staffing in your industry?
It is true that at the recent 16th National Executive Council (NEC) of our great union in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State Capital, members passed a vote of confidence on our leadership over the union’s victory on the resilient efforts of the leadership in tackling the issue of casualization and conversion of 4000 casual workers to permanent employees of CCECC and CGC.
Our members commended the leadership of the union on our assiduous efforts in using the recent National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC) negotiation to push up for an improved increment in the conditions of service of the members to an appreciable level and urge the leadership to continue in this feat
Our members used the opportunity to appreciate the alertness of the leadership of the Union in monitoring of employers compliance with best industrial relations practices in our industry, which has helped to reduce friction between the union and employer, put management on their toes, facilitate alertness and make both the Government and employers to appreciate the need to proactively nip issues in the bud and planned other ways forward.
What are the ways forward to enable your leadership to sustain the struggle?
Thank you. As a way forward, the NEC-in-session as the highest decision making body of our Union has resolved that any employment model or policy that is found to be deceptively exploitative with the tendency to degrade jobs or weakening the union will be strongly resisted.
The NEC-in-session also resolved to investigate and monitor employers in the industry against all kinds of casualization and ensure full resistance if any cropped up.
It was also resolved that as a way forward, sufficient compensation, fair and sufficient benefits and good welfare packages for all members through unrestricted legitimate right to union activities, and other lawful engagements in resolving issues with our employers, especially the Chinese and Asian companies in our industries.
What are the challenges facing your union that are adversely affecting your leadership?
One of the major challenges facing our leadership is that many foreigners, especially Asians and Chinese are in Nigeria on the excuse of being experts on the jobs that can be performed by Nigerians, which is against the Nigerian Content Development (NCD) Act.
In our recent NEC meeting, the NEC in Session used the opportunity to call on the necessary organ of Government to review the process of granting expatriate permit through proper synchronization as well as ensuring that expatriate quota are not abused.
The challenge of some employers scuttling and denying our members their inalienable rights and where there are judgments against the employers, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity not taking prompt/active steps. Part of resolution made was to ensure that the Ministry was called upon to ensure that workers have the rights to belong to the union of their choice in accordance with the laws of the land and ILO Conventions which had already been domesticated in Nigeria.
And to overcome these challenges, our NEC demanded for a properly reconstituted inter-ministerial department and agency committee that will co-opt labour unions in recommending and approving expatriate registration.
What is your position on the recent vote of confidence passed on you to contest the February 2015 Nigeria Labour Congress’ presidency election?
Thank you. Having attested to the antecedence of the President General of our great Union, the highest decision making body of our Union, the NEC, have passed a vote of confidence on me and endorsed me to vie for the position of the President of the NLC come February 2015, and we are already strategising for the coming election.
As a labour leader, what is your advice to the Federal Government on ways to curtail the current deadly Ebola disease?
We call on the Federal Government to review the nation’s healthcare policy as the best option to promote the right approach of curtailing Ebola virus for millions of disadvantaged Nigerians.
It is on record that the government’s reaction to the Ebola challenge so far had contributed to curtailing the spread of the disease, but the inadequacy of a reactive approach to the problem is illustrated by the low survival rates of victims here in Nigeria when compared to those in countries with developed and functioning healthcare systems.
This is because the unfortunate reality in Nigeria is that the right to healthcare system in the country still remains a distant goal for millions of Nigerians, especially those who continue to live in poverty as a result of years of mismanagement and high level official corruption.
This prompted our recent call for a functioning public healthcare system because this problem is further exacerbated by the absence of functioning public health and health-care facilities due to either insufficient resources, or official corruption.
We are of the view that the three tiers of Governments should not relent in their efforts to provide and promote an environment across the country where people can lead a healthy life, in particular by ensuring access to safe and potable water and adequate sanitation, safe and healthy working conditions, and a healthy environment.
This is because Nigeria urgently needs a long term and preventive approach that conceives health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
What will be your advice to Government on ways to ensure that youths are given a priority in its development agenda?
In the face of the current weak and turbulent economic environment, we call on the three tiers of Government, the Federal, States and Local Governments in Nigeria to take job creation as the most pressing development priority.
We call on the Government of Nigeria to be more committed at youth to take the front seat vehicle of economic growth because in order to tame the rising level of unemployment in the country, which currently stands at 24 per cent, there is an urgent need by the Federal government to create a requisite business environment for the nation’s informal sector to thrive.
This is because if Government Policy tweaks to the business environment by making Jobs, social inclusion and sustainable growth to be at the heart of developmental action through the implementation of youth guarantee schemes, there will be improved industrial diversification and innovation.
And this will boost the effectiveness of labour market services, increase job creation and strengthen social investment because if labour costs were zero, total costs would still be too high to make most private sector enterprises competitive in Nigeria.
Are you saying that Government Policy tweaking in the business environment would create job opportunities?
Yes. Government policy that would create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, and new investors coming into the economy would boost employment opportunities.
And so, in tackling youth unemployment in Nigeria, there is merit in tailoring policy advice by Government to smart social policies such as programmes that help the unemployed find jobs or systems that provide social security to vulnerable members of our society. These programmes cannot just be considered a cost; rather they are an investment in our future
We must not be lured into the notion that the current security crisis is over, and that no further action is required to implement youth employment policy, rather the three tiers of Government, the Federal, State and Local Government should initiate policies that would clearly coordinate and integrate actions to make youth entrepreneurs’ in the informal sector to drive the economy.
The crisis of the youths in Nigeria being on the jobs queue is very much with us and the queue is getting longer, though on the surface, the Nigerian economy may appear to have regained some stability but the real economy is still in troubled waters.
Source : Independent