FREE THE BRT LAGBUS 5 CAMPAIGN (Updated)
FREE THE BRT LAGBUS 5 CAMPAIGN (Updated)
Chinedu Bosah, Lagos
UPDATE: DETAINED LAGBUS WORKERS RELEASED
Update August 25, 2009
The five Lagbus workers detained have been released on Police bail and will now have to report to the police next Friday, August 28.
The workers have sent greetings to all DSM comrades and the CWI internationally for their campaign to get them released. However the case is still pending as the charges are yet to be dropped and we are yet to know what the company, police and Lagos state government will do next. So we must remain vigilant.
Since Monday August 17, 5 workers of the Lagbus, one of the two companies that run BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) scheme in Lagos State, have been arrested and detained by the police at the behest of the state government. The incarcerated workers are Mark Marvelous, Okosi Jeffery, Taiwo Toyin, Olarewaju Babatunde, and Anifowoshe Yusuf. These workers activists were arrested while participating in the strike and peaceful protest march by workers of the company to press home their demands for improved conditions of service.
The demands of the workers are: an end to contract staffing, an insurance policy for all operational staff. Increment of workers’ salaries by 100%, and conditions of service for workers; reduction of work hours from 60 hours to 40 hours per week; immediate reinstatement of all workers unjustly sacked etc.
The state government which has prided itself to be based on rule of law has caused detention of workers for more than 24 hours without being charged to court in a flagrant violation of the constitution.
We demand the immediate and unconditional release of detained workers as well as their reinstatement to their posts. We also call on the management to meet the demands of workers without loss of jobs.
The management (Lagbus Asset Management Limited) always plays games with the demands of workers while the union (AUCPTRE) leadership has refused to struggle, thereby forcing workers to take independent actions.
Immediately the strike commenced the management and the Lagos State Government deployed over 200 armed police men, mostly from a special anti-robbery out fit, Rapid Response Squad (RRS), to brutally repress the strike.
The BRT scheme is a creation of the Lagos State government, but privately run under the public-private partnership. In other words, the government only used public funds, goodwill and landed property for the advancement of private interest creating a scenario whereby certain individuals in government and their private friends become beneficiaries of the profits made. It is one of those things the Fashola-led Action Congress (AC) government in Lagos State is priding itself for.
But the BRT transport scheme is one area of Governor Fashola’s “mega city agenda” which epitomizes the ruthlessly anti-poor, anti-worker and profit oriented nature of the Action Congress government in Lagos State. The scheme is marred by massive exploitation of workers, flagrant disregard for labour laws in the employment of workers and abysmal conditions of service. For example at Lagbus, out of the 800 workers 500 are casuals employed on a contract basis. Recruitment is outsourced to four contractors: Driving Solution Limited, EXCEL, NURTW and RTEAN. The management started employing workers particularly the bus captains (drivers) on a contract basis from June 2008 when workers who were employed directly started agitation for a better welfare package. This action of management is devised in to drive down wages. RTEAN (one of the contractors) pays its workers N6 per odometer, which has made workers not to earn beyond N15, 000 monthly while other contract staff as well as the regular staff are paid N35, 000. Cleaners are equally employed on contract basis and are paid as low as N10, 000.
LAGBUS WORKERS STRUGGLE SO FAR
Workers had gone on strike for two days on October 17 2008 to demand provision for leave, reduction of the work hours which were 80 hours per week (16 working hours on the basis of 2 days on, 1 day off) to 40 hours per week, condition of service for all staff, increment in salary by 100 % etc. Management was forced to allow workers to go on leave starting from January 2009. After 4 months of waiting for other demands to be met, the workers embarked on another 2 days strike on April 6 2009 and management was forced to reduce the work hours to 60 hours per week (16 working hours on the basis of 1 day on, 1 day off).
The Fashola government has shown its enormous anti-worker postures like other state governments and the PDP federal government despite being touted as different. In the same Lagbus Asset Management Limited, 17 workers were arrested and actually detained at the Ikoyi Prison since August 2008. In May 2009, the Lagos government brutally suppressed agitation and strike action by the public sector doctors under the aegis of Medical Guild. Dr. Maruf Agara, the secretary of the Guild was beaten into a coma by mobile policemen called-in by the government. It is also in Lagos where attempt had been made by Lagos State University to break the strike of ASUU and other staff unions at behest of the state government
On Tuesday August 18, 3 branch union executives were arrested and detained at 10am by the police at the Lagos State Police Command and were granted bail at about 9pm. The state officers of the union (AUPCTRE) came to get the 3 of them on bail while abandoning the remaining 5 workers who had been arrested the day before.
The situation calls for widespread campaign to free the incarcerated BRT Lagbus 5. Members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) are playing central solidarity role to have them released. We have planned to open discussion with other groups for solidarity actions. The Union (Amalgamated Public Corporation, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Service Employees) the workers are affiliated to, particularly at the state and national level, has disassociated itself from the victimized workers and supported the attacks on their rights as deterrents to other workers from taking independent action. Unfortunately the same union has played reactionary pro-state role in the past and is continuing on that line. It is instructive to state that workers, having lost confidence in the union which has practically failed to defend workers interests, resorted to taking independent actions. In this respect, the leadership at the branch is weak while the leadership at the state and federal level has supported the suppression of the workers strike. This has placed the detained workers in a more difficult state and leaves activists with no other option but to campaign for their freedom.
We therefore call on Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and other trade unions as well as socialist activists, pro-labour organizations and individuals both nationally and internationally to send in protest letters and text messages to the email and phone numbers below. Protest letters can also be sent to Nigerian embassies. Material donations are urgently requested for the legal and political campaigns for their release.
Lagbus Asset Management Limited email address: email@example.com. Management officials phone numbers: 07041446001, 07041446002, 07041446003, 07041446003, 07041446005.
Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mervel Akpoyibo: 08033011052.
Lagos State Police Public Relation Officer (PRO), Mr. Frank Mba: 08038375844.
Lagos State government officials:
Governor’s office email- firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Deputy Governors email- firstname.lastname@example.org
Commissioner of Information and Strategy- email@example.com