ZARTECH Workers Agitate For Improved Welfare Conditions As They Seek To Change Their Union Affiliati
ZARTECH Workers Agitate For Improved Welfare Conditions As They Seek To Change Their Union Affiliation
By Abbey Trotsky
The determination to keep the fight for improved living and working condition alive has been demonstrated by workers in ZARTECH Nigeria limited, Oluyole, Ibadan with their ongoing agitation to change their union affiliation from the Agricultural and Allied Employees Union of Nigeria (AAEUN) to the National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE). This agitation which has gained much echo and support among over 3,000 rank and file workers in the company is in protest against the graphic failure of the state leadership of the AAEUN to defend workers against several management attacks on individual and collective interest of workers in the company.
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) unequivocally support the decision of the workers to invoke their rights to freedom of association supported by the Constitution and Trade Union Amendment Act and join any union of their choice. Workers have rights to ditch a union which has failed woefully to defend the rights and interests of workers at the workplace. We however warn that the workers should not expect that it would be an Eldorado once they change to NUFBTE which itself has not shown required commitment towards the plight of about 250 workers of Dangote Pasta in Lagos who have been sacked since August 30 2010 for joining the union. NUFBTE could in ‘solidarity with the AAEUN’ refuse to accept the workers joining them.
Therefore, workers must maintain their fighting spirit even if they successfully join NUFBTE. Lack of fighting leadership is now widespread and commonplace in trade union movement nationally. Whichever trade union they belong workers must strive to agitate for active involvement in the day to day activities and democratic running of the union as only this can guarantee a virile and fighting union that will always advance and protect the interest and rights of the rank and file workers.
ZARTECH workers groan daily under series of terrible attacks on their working conditions. These include casualisation, indiscriminate lay-off of staff, extension of working hours and the periodic cut in workers` wages. Such like in many private companies the new national minimum wage is not implemented at the company, and there has not been effort to fight for it by the union.
Investigation reveals that more than one-third of the total workforce in Zartech are casuals. This is a category of workers who lack legitimate right to demand protection of right and improvement in their working conditions. As such, remain immense tools of exploitation for higher profit for their employer of labour which could afford to lay them off anytime and replace them with cheaper alternative casual workers.
Apart from lack of job security and the absence of any tangible welfare package, workers are also exposed to deplorable, hazardous and inhuman working environment with little or no attention paid to their occupational health and as well as dignity of the workers in flagrant disregard of the factory acts and other relevant labour. In fact, there are reports of situations where casual workers and even staff who sustained terrible disabilities while working in the factory but were outrightly dismissed without any adequate compensation.
Just recently, the management of the company, came-up with a new proposal of double shift against the existing three- shift working hours in the company. This means, that workers on morning shift will need to resume work at 7.00am and work non-stop until 7.00pm, while workers on the night shift will take over by 7.00pm under the same harsh condition without observing a break until 6am the next morning. Also contained in the new proposal is the plan to sack over 1,000 workers. Despite the fact that workers are made to work for long hours compulsorily with income of less than N200.00 per day, in addition to other attacks. There is still an attempt to cut the workers’ wages in the new proposal.
Unfortunately, several calls made by rank and file workers in the company on the state leadership of AAEUN, which supposedly exist to defend and advance the interest of workers, to intervene in the matter were ignored.
It took the intervention of the CDWR in conjunction with the Oyo state chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) before some parts of these obnoxious, anti-workers policies contained in the new proposal by the management of the company were put on hold while the management still went ahead to ensure a cut in some of the workers allowance.
In addition to the failure of AAEUN to protect workers interests is the speculation that the leadership of AAEUN usually exploits the plight of workers to negotiate some personal fortune from the management which has further strengthened the resolve of the workers to leave the union.
However, there are several attempts by the local union leadership of the ZARTECH, partly due to the pressure from the state leadership of AAEUN, to douse the growing mass agitation among workers under the pretence that the management had threatened that they would not recognize any other union aside from AAEUN. Interestingly, workers in the delegate meeting held on July 27th defied this threat and remained resolute on their stance. Members of DSM and CDWR intervened at the delegate meeting where 24 copies of Socialist Democracy (SD) were sold.