WORKERS PROTEST ANTI-LABOUR PRACTICES AT LINDA COMPANY
WORKERS PROTEST ANTI-LABOUR PRACTICES AT LINDA COMPANY
By Chinedu Bosah
Striking Linda workers at the main entrance of the company, photo by DSM
On September 25, 2014, over 1,000 workers in Lagos went on strike which lasted for about two weeks at the Linda Manufacturing Company, manufacturer of ‘x-pression’ hair weave-on, over inhuman working conditions and anti-labour practices which led to the death of an employee, 19 years old Atukpo Wisdom.
The late Atukpo Wisdom died on 24th of September, 2014 while working, and the management allegedly dumped his dead body in the gutter outside the premises the next day to give the impression that he died outside the company’s premises in order to evade responsibility. The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) condemns this cruelty of the management.
One of the policies the workers were protesting against is the absence of adequate medical care when workers are sick. But most terrifying is the company’s ’27 Points’ policy that forces workers to remain at work by all means. ’27 Points’ is a brutal slave-era policy implemented by the management that attaches 3 points to workers who fail to be at work even when they have genuine reason(s) not to be at work or 9 points for being suspended for one day, which sometimes happens because workers are unable to meet specified targets for the day or for any other flimsy excuses. Hence, these points keep piling up and when it gets to ’27 Points’, the worker is automatically sacked.
The race to avoid getting to ’27 Points’, and the fact that the management is not willing to give permission to workers to seek medical care especially in the face of absence of functional hospital for workers, led to the death of Mr. Wisdom.
The workers protested against casualization, ’27 Points’, piece rate target, delay in payment of salaries, inadequate medical attention, lack of sick and annual leave for most workers, absence of compensation to injured workers etc. The workers also demanded the right to belong to a union of their choice and an increment in salaries. Workers also reported other cruel policies of the management. These include sacking of any worker who sustains an injury while working. 60% of the over 1,000 workforce are casuals while 40% are staff who must have worked for 2 years before their employment is regularized and another 2 years before being entitled to annual leave. A N5,000 pension contribution is deducted from workers’ salaries, most of whom earn about N39,000 as staff (casuals earn about N29,000 but do not contribute to pension) which is almost the contribution of the employees and employers put together whereas the employers and employees are supposed to contribute 7.5% each in line with 2004 Pension Act. Workers are sometimes forced to work till 10pm to meet set targets while the daily work time-frame is supposed to be between 7:30am to 4:30pm and the inability to meet targets is usually because of faulty machinery or lack of adequate materials to work with.
Workers protested to the Lagos State Government office on 2nd of October 2014 and this led to the sealing of the company’s premises on same day by some agencies of the government. Curiously, the sealing order was lifted by same government the next day even when the management was yet to address any of the workers’ demands.
Unfortunately, there was no serious intervention in the plight of the workers by trade union. The workers are supposed belong to National Union of Chemical, Footwear and Non-Metallic Workers (NUCFRLANMPE) but they have not been really organized by the union. The only activity of the union is collection of check-off dues. The union does not defend the workers interest and in certain instances collaborated with management to attack workers. It explains why workers had to stage a protest to the Lagos State Government instead of seeking the union’s assistance. The management has a willing collaborator in the person of Mr. Lazaru Okpara, aka Baba Ilasa, who is the 2nd Deputy President of NUCFRLANMPE and works at Linda Manufacturing Company. Mr Okpara reportedly uses his position as a labour leader to back the management in its anti-worker practices and policies.
Decent work protest, photo by DSM
Mr. Okpara was almost lynched by angry workers and some union activists at one of the protest actions but was whisked away by some other labour leaders. With nothing concrete coming from the trade unions, the government only pays lip-service, and with no clear decisive leadership at the factory, the workers may have no choice but to return to work sooner or later at least to retain their job even without any significant concession or victory from the struggle.
Since October 3, 2014, members of the CDWR have been intervening in the Linda crisis, hundreds of leaflets have been distributed and 10 workers are working with the CDWR in order to strengthen the struggle. CDWR members will be intervening as long as the struggle is on.
DECENT WORK DAY RALLY
Decent Work Day is marked on October 7 but the awareness campaign was held this year on October 9 because of the holiday. Last year campaign’s held on October 7, 2014 with protest march and picketing of two Lagos companies (Dura Pack Industry and Majestic Company) over anti-labour practices. “Decent Work Day”, is a day set aside by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to raise awareness on anti-labour practices. This year in Lagos workers from different unions converged at the Textile Labour Secretariat and went on procession from Ikeja to Linda Manufacturing Company. The procession was led by the General Secretary of National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), the NLC Vice-President Issa Aremu, the General Secretary of National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Abdul Kareem Motajo and others.
By the time the protesters got to the Linda Company most of the workers who daily besieged the gate of the company had gone home. This was because the organisers of IndustriALL (a “Global Union” that claims to link together 50 million workers in 140 countries) were not in contact with the rank and file workers. Unfortunately this picketing is most likely a one-off action that will not be replicated again until next year, thereby abandoning these workers to anti-labour practices.
The CDWR hereby calls on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the entire leadership NUCFRLANMPE to intervene in order to defend the interest of workers in Linda Manufacturing and other companies where anti-labour practices are implemented. CDWR calls on workers to ignore all management threats and remain steadfast, until victory is won. CDWR calls on the management to begin negotiation with elected representative of workers as a step towards ending the strike. CDWR calls on all workers at Sophia, another company operating within the same premises, to show solidarity with Linda workers by joining the strike and jointly negotiate a new condition of service of all workers.
1. Setting up of an independent and democratic panel of enquiry made up of trade union representatives, elected representative of workers, officials of the Ministry of Labour to investigate the death of late Atukpo as well as the condition of work.
2. Adequate compensation to be paid to the family of Atukpo Wisdom.
3. The cancellation of ’27 Points’ policy and an end to piece rate policy.
4. An immediate end to casualization and other inhuman workplace policies at Linda Company. Management should immediately regularize all casuals who have worked for 3 months in line with Section 7 of Labour Act.
5. No worker must be victimized on account of the strike.
6. Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and NUCFRLANMPE must defend the interest of workers in Linda Manufacturing and other companies where anti-labour practices are implemented