By Michael Oche
With migrant workers facing increased vulnerability following the Covid-19 pandemic, trade unions in Nigeria have received training on how to engage with authorities on the protection of rights of migrants in the post pandemic era.
The 2 days training which is part of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) capacity support to trade union was held virtually and had participants from affiliate unions of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC).
Speaking during the training, Austin Erameh, the ILO…explained that the objective of the workshop was to strengthen the capacity of workers’ organizations on how to organize more effectively for representation and collective bargaining purposes, during and post Covid-19.
Erameh said the training will strengthen capacity of workers’ organizations on applicability of available labour migration governance frameworks and mechanisms for promotion and protection of migrant workers in the context of COVID-19.
He said it will also provide a platform to advance the discourse in the area of bilateral cooperation amongst Trade Unions in Nigeria and countries of destination as well as enhance workers’ awareness of emerging dynamics in labour mobility, fair recruitment and the future of work in the post pandemic era.
In his presentation, Eddy Akpomera, a lecturer with the Department of political science at the University of Benin, decried that COVID 19 pandemic has worsened the vulnerabilities of low skilled migrant workers.
He said private employment agencies and their local scouts have been on the increase and the inability of government to monitor their activities has allow them exploit migrant workers.
He said this situation puts migrant workers at risk of exploitation in the recruitment process, such as debt burden, exorbitant recruitment fees and contract substitution.
He lamented that despite having the second biggest diapora remittance in Africa, the government has not paid special attention to plight of Nigerian migrants.
According to him, as at 2020, Nigeria has ratified 40 Conventions, 26 are in force, 9 Conventions have been denounced and 5 instruments abrogated.
He lamented that Nigeria is yet to ratify the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (C143), Private Employment Agency Convention, 1997(No. 181) and Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189).
According to Akpomera, the workers unions in Nigeria need to develop commitment to protect Nigerian migrant workers.
He suggested roles of workers’ unions in Nigeria can perform for protection of migrant workers.
He urged trade unions in Nigeria to collaborate with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC —Africa) to sensitize African migrants on their rights, and jovernments on their obligations to promote international abour standards.
He said they can collaborate with Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, and undertake advocacy to the National Assembly, to ensure the domestication of the ILO Private Employment Agencies Convention (No. 181) 1997.
Other roles he suggested included to strive for tripartite engagements with government and employers, and launch on online platform for social dialogue to provide COVID 19-related information to migrant workers, and monitor complaints of workers in destination countries.