GRATUITY: LABOUR LEADER SAYS PENCOM GUIDELINE FAILS TO RECOGNISE PRIVATE SECTOR EMPLOYERS
Organised Labour has condemned National Pension Commission (PenCom) guidelines on the issue of gratuity, saying it undermines the interest of workers in the private sector. Labour said the PENCOM guidelines failed to recognise that workers, who lose their jobs in the private sector, ccontend with some challenges as they move about in search of new jobs.
Immediate past Lagos State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Elder Linus Ukamba, while delivering a lecture on 'Gratuity Liquidation: Implications and Expectation' at May Day seminar organised by the Construction and Civil Engineering Senior Staff Association (CCESSA) at Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry House in Ikeja, declared that payment of unemployment benefits was yet to be part of Federal Government of Nigeria's economic policy.
'The streamlining of terminal benefits that crops up from redundancy, termination and retirement is a creative maneuver as the PenCom guidelines on the issue of gratuity failed to recognise that workers that lose their jobs in the private sector need to cater for their families, pay their rents and move about in search of new jobs, while the Pension Funds Administrator (PFA) is processing the gratuity payment. 'More over, payment of unemployment benefits is yet to be part of Federal Government of Nigeria's economic policy and so, it is yet to be part of our economic life', he said
He spoke on the antecedents of gratuity in the country:'While private sector unions in Nigeria fought for and entrenched gratuity payments as end of service benefits and the qualifying period was 10 years of service, but following the introduction of National Provident Fund (NPF) by the Government, unions through collective bargaining introduced Contributory Provident Schemes which varies from company to company.
'The military Government of the erstwhile General Ibrahim Babangidda reduced the qualifying period to five years for Government workers and the private sector unions took a cue from that and gradually won reduction, but with the advent of the civil rule, the former President olusegun Obasanjo administration introduced the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) for all workers in the country, which was not well received in the private sector for the fears that, those who resigned or are terminated may lose their terminal benefits due to government bureaucracy'
He however said that some unions in the private sector, precisely in the food and beverages sector, in their agitations demanded and collected their accumulated gratuities in bulk and have now created a new gratuity regime called Annualisation by which gratuity is calculated and paid annually.
Earlier, CCESSA's President Comrade Augustine Etafo has called on the nation's workers, especially members of his association to see the seminar as enlightenment for their own struggle on the issue of gratuity in the construction industry.
He explained that the issue of gratuity liquidation almost stalled, but has delayed the quick resolution of the 2011 NJIC deliberations on workers' gratuity in their sector.
'We use this opportunity to call on the Federal Government and the National Assembly (NASS) to kick start the process of enacting an Act, similar to the Nigeria oil and gas content Act of 2010 in the construction industry on the development of Nigerian content to boost employment generation in the construction industry', he said.
He, however, called on stakeholders in and outside the construction industry to support the enactment of the Nigerian Content Act in the construction industry.
Over 100 participants, drawn from various building, civil engineering, dredging and pipelaying companies across the country were in attendance at the seminar.