WEMPCO WORKERS PROTEST UNPAID SALARIES, UNPAID ENTITLEMENTS AND ANTI-LABOUR PRACTICES
CDWR AND NLC (LAGOS COUNCIL) ARE IN SOLIDARITY WITH WORKERS
Workers of Western Metal Products Company (WEMPCO) Group of companies, owners of Nigeria Enamelware Plc (NEWCO), Universal Nigeria Industries Company Ltd (UNICO), General Metalware Co Ltd (GEMCO) and Lagos Oriental Hotel have suffered untold hardship as a result of management’s anti-labour practices in the last 4 years.
These include non-payment of annual gratuity for 3 years and non-remittance of workers’ cooperative funds. Also, workers’ pensions have not been remitted since January 2018. Worse still, the management has failed to adjust workers’ pensions from 15% to 18% since the Pension Reform Act was reviewed in May 2014. They also refused to implement the National Joint Industrial Collective Agreement reached between Steel and Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria (SEWUN) and Association of Metal Products, Iron and Steel Employers of Nigeria (AMPISEN) since it came into effect in November 2018. Leave allowance for this year (2020) has not been paid, while workers who were transferred to other states were not paid out-of-station and transfer allowance.
As if all these are not excruciating enough, under the guise of COVID-19 pandemic, the management has instructed workers to stay at home since March 2020 and has not paid salaries except N14,000 Housing Allowance, which is not paid on an regular basis.
The reality is that the WEMPCO Group has run into crises since 2015 due to mismanagement. For instance, the company is indebted to over N90 billion, according to an online medium (Niarametrics.com). However, while the bosses who caused the crisis have continued to preserve their jumbo pay and bonuses, workers are made to pay for the crisis. WEMPCO had in its employ about 250,000 workers over a decade back but many of these jobs have been lost in the last two years.
Despite these attacks, and entreaty from workers, the leadership of SEWUN, the workers’ union, have failed to defend the workers, something that forced the workers to declare a vote of no confidence in the branch leadership and also distanced themselves from the national leaders. SEWUN also failed to engage the management for the implementation of the NJIC agreement.
Workers have tried to engage the management but to no avail. All letters written were not responded to by the management. Hence, workers resolved to embark on industrial actions to press home their demands.
Workers approached the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) as well as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Lagos Council, for solidarity support. Consequent upon this, CDWR and NLC organized the workers to picket and protest the anti-labour practices on November 25, 2020, at the company’s head office at WEMPCO Road, Ikeja, Lagos. About 150 workers protested with different demands, “pay workers leave allowance; pay our salaries since March 2020; remit our pension; remit out cooperative funds etc.” Hundreds of fliers produced by the workers were circulated while the banner was displayed.
Funmi Sessi (Lagos Council NLC Chairperson), Rufus Olusesan (CDWR National Chairperson), Chinedu Bosah (CDWR National Publicity Secretary) addressed the protesting workers and called on the workers to get organized and called on management to meet the demands of workers. Mayowa Onabule, a CDWR member who was recently sacked by another company Durapack, also joined the protest in solidarity with workers.
Some WEMPCO workers who had different industrial accidents but had yet to be compensated also participated in the protest. These included Mr Popoola Lukman who lost 5 fingers in two industrial accidents; Mr Yemi Akinola lost two fingers while the wrist and hand of Mr Jimoh Bello were disfigured Mr Jimoh Wasiu lost one finger in 2015 to an industrial accident . Victor Ben lost two fingers and was sacked by the management in December 2019 without compensation. This has been the pattern in many factories wherein workers who suffered permanent disability are abandoned and most of these workers can hardly secure another employment due to the disability.
The CDWR calls on the management of WEMPCO Group to meet workers’ demands including payment of outstanding salaries, remittance of all outstanding pension and cooperative funds, implementation of NJIC agreement of 2018, payment of adequate redundancy benefit and adequate compensation for all the victims of industrial accidents
The WEMPCO workers, CDWR and NLC leadership, Lagos Council, have resolved to sustain the struggle through more actions until the management meets the demands. We call on trade union activists and pro-masses organisations to join us in solidarity action with WEMPCO workers.
Hundreds of the CDWR leaflet calling for an end to casualization and anti-labour practices and for an independent fighting trade union movement were circulated. Four copies of Socialist Democracy, the paper of the DSM, were sold.