Stories by Bimbola Oyesola, 08033246177
The Organised labour in Nigeria on Saturday joined other workers across the globe to celebrate this year’s World Day for Decent Work (WDDW). For over a decade now, the October 7 has been observed annually as a day to champion the cause to end workers enslavement in the world of work through practices of casualisation.
The organised labour in Nigeria have used this year’s event to picket many companies whom they alleged were casualising their workforce as well as denied the workers from joining the unions of their choice.
Labour had taken the employers unaware as it hatched its plans to riddle the work places in Nigeria of the endemic casualisation and other anti-labour practices.
As a build up to the Saturday’s celebration, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had picketed companies across the country on Thursday and Friday without giving any hint to the affected companies. Among those affected were telecommunications giant MTN, CHI Nigeria limited, Orange drugs, Namoh Nigeria limited, Consolidated Business Holdings and Abuja Environmental Protection Board.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said the picketing became necessary as the companies, despite repeated warnings and visitations by the labour leadership, have refused to stop their anti-workers activities.
He said the picketing of companies will be done in batches and will be a continuous exercise, even after the Decent Work Day celebration, until employers stop violation of workers right and casualisation of the workers.
The chairman, of the NLC Committee on Casualisation, who is also the Vice President of the labour centre who led the picketing exercise, Solomon Adelegan said only political will by the government can stop the abuse of workers in the country.
He said: “ Political will by the government through laws made by the National Assembly and passed by the Presidency will put a stop to casualisation of Nigerian workers by the employers, as any of such laws can be enforced by the law enforcement agencies”..
Adelegan said this year’s October 7 marked the 10th anniversary of the World Day for Decent Work (WDDW), and being the second edition celebrated under the Ayuba Wabba led NLC leadership, labour would make sure the evils of casualisation is tackled.
He said the picketing was inevitable as employers use casualisation as a form of work in several work places, contrary to national laws on employment, international labour and human rights conventions, and the basic principles of decent work signed by member nations of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and particularly UN Sustainable Development Goals on the right and welfare of workers .
He said NLC demands are for employers to stop casualisation of workers in work places, pay their workers living wages, and allow their workers to form and belong to trade unions of their choice in work places in compliance with the labour laws and ILO Convention 87.
Others are: “Integrate these workers and their unions in your internal collective bargaining machinery in all work places in compliance with ILO convention 98 and respect of all national laws and international labour conventions on the rights of workers.”
The picketing in Lagos on Thursday was quite successful as the management of the two companies visited,Orange Group and Consolidated Holdings signed agreements with the NLC to allow workers in their organisations belong to union.
The unions under the IndustriALL Global however used the day to draw awareness to the plights of Nigerian workers as they marched across the city of Lagos with several placards and called on the two labour centres, the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to issue ultimatum to the Federal Government on the new Minimum Wage.
The IndustriALL Global Union members said ultimatum should be given to the Federal Government over the protracted new minimum wage issue, noting that the government must be given a time frame to either inaugurate a minimum committee or face industrial unrest.
Vice Chairman of the global body, Mr. Issa Aremu, said workers could not continue to work under a precarious wage, while government continued to delay on a new minimum wage after the expiration of the N18.000 minimum wage in 2015.
According to him, “we have to call on all the Labour centres in the country to give the federal government an ultimatum on the new minimum wage. The Labour centres should give the government a time frame to immediately constitute and inaugurate a new minimum wage committee to negotiate a new minimum wage failing which we will withdraw our services. We cannot continue to work under this precarious pay, under this high cost of living and hardship. It is our right to have a new minimum wage because the N18,000 minimum, besides the fact that its life span has elapsed since 2015, the present socio-economic situation makes it imperative for us to have a new minimum wage.”
Aremu who is also the General Secretary of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN, lamented the precarious working conditions of working people across the country and called on workers across the country to unite and fight against precarious working environment .
He recalled that the International Labour Organisation, ILO, set aside October 7 every year for workers across the world to create awareness on the plight of workers, adding that IndustriALL Global Union started marking the event five years ago.
In his contribution, Chairman of the Chairmen Nigeria National Council of IndustriALL Global Union, Igwe Achese, represented by the council secretary, Mr.Ismail Bello, told the workers that, “it is a day of action, a day to mobilise workers to organise and fight for change, it is a day to engage employers- private or public to respect the law and workers rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.”
He listed affiliates of Industriall Global Union Federation in Nigeria to include the NUTGTWN, Nigeria Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, (NUPENG), National Union of Electricity Employees, (NUEE), National Union of Chemical Footwear, Rubber, Leather and Non-Metallic Products Employees, (NUCFRLANMPE), Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, (PENGASSAN), Chemical and Non-Metallic Products Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, (CANMPSSAN), Steel and Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria, (SEWUN).
The Association of Senior Staffs of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) at its programme to mark the day however said employers hide under the high rate of unemployment in the country to casaulise workers.
The National president of the union, Oyinkan Olasanoye said organized abour is however insisting, that there must be a condition of service that will bring dignity into the contract staff service and into whatever role they occupies.
Olasanoye highlighting on the theme for 2017 World Day for Decent Work, “ End Corporate Greed: The world needs a pay rise” lamented that the wage difference between full time staff and casual workers are very high.
She added, “But instead of saying they shouldn’t work at all as contract workers, we are saying, the remuneration they are being paid should be something that shows work done with decency.
“We have seen a lot of workers that have been on the same level for 10 years because they are contract staffs. We are working with the house committee of the House of Reps and labour that there should be a collective agreement for these contract workers.
“We are no longer selfish that they should automatically be our members in the union. Though we want them to be our members so that we can monitor their condition of service. Before now, everything we have been saying about contract staffs, government and employers are seeing it as if we want them all to be in our union, but what we are saying is that because they are human beings, workers and Nigerians, their condition of work should be something that is acceptable.”
She said with the global economic crisis hitting workers hard in the country, a work can only be decent when it has fair income that enhances workers standard of living, it’s safe and secured, with social protection for the family without greedy corporation setting the rule of the economy.
She joined the call for an increase in the wages of workers, affirming that the current wage structure is not enough for workers when compared to executive compensation that has grown 250 per cent faster than workers income despite corporations putting the blames of high cost of doing business on workers.
The Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Musa Lawal, commenting on the theme said ending corporate greed is ending capitalism which is impossible to do.
He said the problem cannot be solved until all workers come together to face the issue.
The speaker on the theme, Dr Francis Anyim said only pay rise can stop greed in the workplace.
Anyim calls for the urgent increase in the wages of workers, saying “there is an urgent need to address the wage issue, if it is not listed in the 2018 budget under consideration, there would be industrial actions by the workers as witnessed this year”.
He joined the national president of ASSBIFI to call on workers to register to participate in the coming elections so as to better their lots