Recently, Comrade Joseph Ajaero, was elected as the national president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). Ajaero, who until his election was the general secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE). He emerged as the consensus candidate at the end of the congress’ 13th National Delegates Conference in Abuja.
The new President and other members of the National Administrative Council (NAC) will pilot the affairs of the congress for the next four years. Indeed, the election of the new President of the NLC marks a new chapter in the history of the organisation and a significant moment for workers in Nigeria.
It is pertinent to note that the NLC has been a critical voice in advocating for the rights of workers in the country and has played a central role in shaping labour policy. As the new President assumes office, it is important to reflect on the challenges that lie ahead and the opportunities for the organisation to make a positive impact on the lives of workers.
One of the main challenges that the new President will face is the need to revive the NLC’s role as an effective advocate for workers’ rights. Over the past few years, the organisation has struggled to assert its voice in the public discourse and has been criticized for losing its relevance.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, the new President must take bold steps to re-establish the NLC as a powerful advocate for workers’ rights, especially in light of the ongoing economic challenges and the need for workers to secure improved wages and working conditions.
Another significant challenge is the need to build a more inclusive and representative labour movement. The NLC must be a platform that brings together workers from all sectors and regions of the country, representing their interests and advocating for their rights. The new President must take steps to engage with workers across the country, listen to their concerns, and build a united and inclusive labour movement that is reflective of the diversity of the Nigerian workforce.
He must also address the issue of corruption within the NLC. Over the years, the organisation has been marred by allegations of corruption and mismanagement, which has eroded public trust and weakened its credibility. The new President must take steps to promote transparency and accountability within the NLC, build trust with workers, and restore the organisation’s reputation as a trusted voice for workers in Nigeria.
In addition to these challenges, Ajaero must also seize the opportunity to advance the cause of workers in Nigeria. One of the key opportunities is to promote collective bargaining and strengthen the bargaining power of workers. The NLC must be at the forefront of efforts to negotiate better wages and working conditions for workers and to promote the use of collective bargaining as a tool for improving the lives of workers.
Another opportunity that the new NLC leadership must avail itself is the promotion of gender equality in the workplace. The NLC must be a champion of equal pay for equal work as well as the rights of women workers in Nigeria. The president must take steps to raise awareness of the issues facing women workers and to advocate for policies that promote gender equality in the workplace.
It is gratifying to note that in his acceptance speech, the new NLC president also promised to pursue a new national minimum wage law that will take into consideration the objective realities of the country’s social-economic situation to avoid unnecessary politicking and impunity by employers and reduce the suffering of Nigerian workers.
According to him, congress shall continue in its tradition of ensuring that Nigerians are protected from all anti-people policies. Consequently, the new President must be a strong advocate for workers’ rights in the context of the ongoing digital transformation of the economy. The rise of the gig economy and the growth of digital platforms have created new forms of work. It has also raised new challenges for workers.
The NLC must be at the forefront of efforts to protect the rights of workers in the digital economy and to promote policies that ensure that workers in this sector are treated fairly and have access to adequate social protections.
In view of the foregoing, the new President of the Nigeria Labour Congress has a critical role to play in shaping the future of the organisation and the lives of workers in Nigeria. The challenges are daunting but not insurmountable. The opportunities are equally so. With the right leadership and a commitment to the cause of workers, the NLC can once again become a powerful voice for workers in Nigeria and a catalyst for positive change in the lives of workers across the country.