The three-day work and two-day farming for workers policy introduced by the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, has been kicked against by president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba.
Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Sunday, Mr Wabba said the policy was against the International Labour Organisation Convention and also against the rules and procedures in service.
He said sending workers to farm by force should be rejected by all in strong term.
“First, we have condemned in very strong terms what the Imo State governor tries to do by forcefully sending workers to the farm.
“Don’t forget that the public service rule is very clear about what trade a worker can actually do to add to his normal routine services.
“It provided that on your own volition, you can join farming as part of your normal routine activities, and that is allowed by law.
“But to criminally now go to the state House of Assembly and pass a law overnight without public hearing and without consultation is against the ILO convention; it is against our rules and procedure in service.
“To say that you want to force workers compulsorily to go into faming two days a week is the height of not even understanding how governance or how public service is run.
“I am sure that is condemnable,” the NLC boss said.
He the Imo State Governor’s policy was quite different from what other states are doing.
Mr Wabba explained that while other states were encouraging workers to embrace farming voluntarily, the Imo State Government’s policy on the other hand was compulsory.
He, however, explained that the ILO Convention and the International Treaty Organisation made it clear that working hours should not be more than eight hours a day and 40 hours per week.
Wabba further noted that Nigeria is a signatory to the treaty prohibiting forced labour.
“What the governor is doing is forced labour; we are not slaves. Even under slavery, you cannot force a worker to work against his volition.
“Employment is a contract between the employer and the employee and therefore, there are rules of engagement. Even what you earn is through a collective bargaining process; it cannot be imposed or forced on you,” said Mr Wabba.
Accordingly, Wabba said that by the NLC directive, the law had been made ineffective, as workers had ignored it and continued with their work normally.
“How can you, for instance, ask a teacher not to go to school to teach pupils for two days a week? Or a health practitioner be given a particular date as disease doesn’t give a notice?” he queried.
“You don’t give notice before you fall sick. So at the time when you are going to farm, an epidemic can actually come up; how you can address all of these?
“Or you want to put two standards in place; you ask one category of workers to come to work three days a week and another category to go to farm.
“That is not done; there are better ways to do that; he can encourage farmers; he can allocate lands and give them fertiliser and give them other incentives.
“You can put laws in place and encourage workers to go into farming; but not through a very cruel process of working against the law and forcing them to go to farm which is against our law and against our convention,” he submitted.
The NLC president stressed that the international labour law, which Nigeria had ratified, was superior to the one passed by the Imo State Assembly.