Workplace violence, child labor said rife in Nigeria

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 27, 2011 8:55 AM
Workplace violence, child labor said rife in Nigeria

By Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters) - Some 15 million children work in Nigeria, often in dangerous jobs, and many workers in Africa's most populous nation live in fear of violence from police and employers, the global labor grouping ITUC said on Monday.

The report said many core international labor standards that the energy-rich African giant has signed up to were regularly breached and there was widespread discrimination against women and minority groups in the labor market.

"Some 15 million children are at work, many in dangerous jobs," said the ITUC -- the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation, which represents some 175 million workers in 151 countries, including Nigeria, around the world.

"Unions frequently experience violent attacks and there is little protection from anti-union discrimination," said the report submitted to the 153-member World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva.

Women and minority groups face discrimination in getting jobs and getting promotion, it said. "The gender pay gap stands at 68 percent and the majority of women are employed in precarious and informal economic activities."

The WTO is this week discussing Nigeria's trade policies, a process through which all its members pass regularly, and the ITUC insists that the trade body should also look at labor practices.

But WTO officials, and most developing country trade diplomats, say labor conditions -- despite efforts in the past by the United States and some European countries to bring them in -- remain outside its remit.

Nigeria, with a population of some 155 million and extensive oil resources, has ratified all eight of the core International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions protecting workers' rights including freedom of unions to organize and ending child labor.

But in a statement with the report, which detailed attacks on workers and union offices, ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said, "Nigeria has failed to live up to this. Many Nigerian workers live in fear of employer and police violence.

"This failure not only hurts Nigerians -- it also undermines efforts by other governments to uphold decent employments standards in the globalized economy," Burrow declared.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)