By Joan Nwagwu
Abuja, April 28, 2021 The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Wednesday urged the Federal Government to recognise COVID-19 as a workplace disease, notifiable and compensable occupational hazard.
Mr Ayuba Wabba, the NLC President, said this in a statement commemorating the 2021 International Workers Memorial Workers’ Day, with the theme “Save Lives at Work”, in Abuja.
Wabba said that this was significant coming at the epoch of the global fight against the novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
”The contribution of frontline workers especially healthcare workers is a formidable buffer between deaths in thousands and deaths in millions.
”Every day, our healthcare workers courageously dare the stare of death in selfless service to rescue the lives of others,” he said.
According to him, in view of the foregoing, the NLC demands as action points in the push to “Save Lives at Work” not only in Nigeria but all over the world of work.
”The listing of occupational health and safety as a fundamental right at work and the recognition of COVID-19 as a workplace disease and as a notifiable and compensable occupational hazard.
”The provision of training and capacity building for trade unions to deal with Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) issues and push for reforms in the Factories Act particularly in relation to enforcement and penalties.
”Demand for compensation of COVID-19 victims in the Workplace; adequate and Quality Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) for workers at the workplace.
”The payment of health hazards to health workers and other frontline workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic and reinforcement of workplace observation of COVID-19 protocols,” he said.
While labour expect actions on these demands, Wabba assured workers of its commitment to protect their health and safety at work at all times.
He therefore said in line with the theme of the Memorial Day, labour would make a strong case for the welfare and protection of living workers.
”There is no better day to demonstrate our readiness to fight for the living than today.
”We will fight for the living by highlighting the preventable nature of most workplace incidents and ill-health, to promote campaigns and union organisation in the fight for improvements in occupational safety and health in our different workplaces.”
The NLC president also said given the ravaging effect of COVID-19 pandemic, the consciousness of health as a fundamental human right has never been so globally appreciated.
”It is in light of this understanding that trade unions and international workers solidarity movement are now making a global push to lift the status of occupational health and safety to the highest level at the ILO,” he said.
He noted that the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), had a strong push for the listing of COVID-19 as a notifiable and compensable occupational health hazards for workers infected with the virus.
”There is also a very strong advocacy by trade unions all over the world for the International Labour Conference to adopt Occupational Health and Safety as a fundamental right at work.
”This would translate to stronger action and commitment by governments worldwide to take responsibility and accountability on their duties to oblige compliance from employers both in the public and private sectors,” he said.
Wabba, however, said the celebration was in the memory of workers who had paid the supreme sacrifice in the course of their duties as workers or as activists fighting for the rights and interests of the working class.
”It is also a day to remember workers who had lost some limb, suffered injury, got infected at work or endured other forms of severe loss while in the workplace,” he said.
Wabba commended the uncommon love, faith, courage and sacrifice by frontline workers who had given more than what the call of duty demands to give hope to humanity.