Fighting Back – Workplace Notes
Workers in Nigeria have consistently come under immense attacks from bosses in the bid to maximize profits. Many workers are subjected to slavery conditions with poor pay and no union rights. Unfortunately, the official labour leadership usually abandons these workers. These attacks have been intensified since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in March 2020. Over a million workers either lost their jobs or had their salary cut. Many of these companies locked workers in the premises against their will and were not allowed to go home for more than three months. To compound the problem is the fact that there is no social security policy from the government.
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) has been giving solidarity to workers who have come under attacks. We have helped and organized workers to fight back through the issuance of press releases, protest, picketing, meetings etc.
Below are some illustrations of the unfair labour practices and CDWR’s interventions:
WEMPCO GROUP OWES WORKERS BACKLOG SALARIES AND OTHER ENTITLEMENTS
Western Metal Products Company (WEMPCO) Group is made up of Nigeria Enamelware Plc (NEWCO), Universal Nigeria Industries Company Ltd (UNICO), General Metalware Co Ltd (GEMCO) and Lagos Oriental Hotel etc.
Workers have not been paid their salaries since March 2020, only N14,000 housing allowance is being paid but even not regular. WEMPCO Group has not complied with the Pension Reform Scheme since January 2018, management refused to remit workers’ pension contribution to their respective PFA’s Retirement accounts in the past two years.
WEMPCO Group has refused to implement the collective agreement reached between the (Association of Metal Products, Iron and Steel Employers (SEWUN) and Association of Metal Products, iron and Steel Employers of Nigeria (AMPISEN). WEMPCO Group refused to remit workers cooperative deduction to workers cooperative Society. WEMPCO Group also stopped paying annual gratuity in the last three years in violation of the condition of service.
In view of the anti-labour practices of the management, workers embarked on a protest at the company’s premises on Wednesday, November 25, 2020, and this protest was led by the Chairperson of Lagos Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mrs Sessi Funmi and the National Chairperson of the CDWR, Comrade Rufus Olusesan. As a result of the protest and protest letters, the Ministry of labour invited management and workers to a meeting on December 5, 2020, but management refused to attend the meeting.
SENATOR IFEANYI UBAH OWES WORKERS BACKLOG SALARIES AND PENSION
Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited is owned by a sitting senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the person of Senator Ifeanyi Patrick Ubah. For more than four years workers have not paid salary and are yet to be disengaged either. Only a few workers out of the 500 workers have employment letters and were minimally documented, an action perpetrated by some companies to evade liabilities. None of the workers was enlisted into the pension scheme and none has pension or gratuity despite the fact that most of the workers have worked over 10 years.
A meeting of the workers over their issues and demand was met with a violent attack from thugs believed to be sponsored by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah on November 7, 2020 leaving some workers injured and hospitalized. Petitions have been written to the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) for their intervention but none has responded.
DURA PACK INDUSTRIES IS A SLAVE CAMP BUT WORKERS ARE FIGHTING BACK
Dura Pack Industries Limited is a notorious company run like a slave camp and one of the companies that make up the Lee Group. West Africa Rubber Limited is a sister company wherein workers on the night shift were locked in on all sides and could not escape a fire outbreak on September 16, 2002, leading to 37 Nigerian workers losing their lives and many injured.
Workers in Dura Pack are poorly paid as most of them earn below N30,000 monthly wage, no canteen within the company premises and workers are not allowed to go out during the break period to eat or refresh. If workers are absent from work for more than three days even if on medical ground, they are sacked. For instance, a worker (Mr Chinedu Nwadike) who lost his wife and baby in the process of childbirth was sacked recently after he resumed work having travelled to bury his wife. Workers are forced to work 12 hours daily and seven days a week, all workers have casual employment status and could be sacked at will, no safe tools for workers to work with, an unfair policy that led to the electrocution of Mr Kenneth on 16th of April 2013. To make matter worse, the management has a bullying policy that stops workers from joining a trade union of their choice in violation of Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution.
With the solidarity of CDWR, workers of the company have organized a number of strikes and protests at different times. These include October 2013, May 2020 and January 4, 2021. Since the 2013 strike, the leadership of National Union of Chemical, Footwear and Non-Metallic Workers (NUCFRLANMPE) has failed to organize the workers. Recently, Mayowa Onabule, a member of CDWR, was sacked by the company over his role in organizing the workers against inhuman conditions and attacks on democratic rights.
ACTIVIST UNDER ATTACK FOR EXTENDING SOLIDARITY TO WORKERS
Currently, the Coordinator of the CDWR in Oyo State, Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye (Abbey Trotsky) is facing both criminal and civil charges at magistrate and industrial courts in Ibadan for intervening in the struggle of casual workers in Sumal Foods. The casual workers had in October 2018 embarked on a three-day strike over poor pays and conditions. Comrade Bamigboye, CDWR Coordinator in Oyo State joined the striking workers in solidarity that eventually forced the management to grant some concessions. Obviously, in order to deter workers from embarking on strike action in future, the management has sacked over 100 workers who played roles in the strike and sadly in connivance with the company’s Foods Union (NUFBTE) leaders, instigated the Police and the Department for State Services (DSS)- Nigeria’s secret police, to arrest and detain Abbey several times. Thereafter, he was arraigned in court on four-count trumped-up charges first on June 7, 2019.
Sumal management and the outsourcing companies have filed three other different civil matters against him at the Industrial and magistrate courts to discourage Abbey and the CDWR from intervening in the plight of workers in Sumal in future. So, altogether, Comrade Bamigboye is facing four different cases at Magistrate and Industrial Courts.
WORKERS RESIST ANTI-LABOUR PRACTICES AT SERVAIR NIGERIA LIMITED
ServAir Nigeria Limited is a catering service company in the Aviation sector. Workers of ServAir have been in labour dispute with management since 2018 over anti-labour practices. Management has unilaterally reduced workers’ salaries and working conditions in 2015 without reaching an agreement with the union leadership or workers’ representatives. Similarly, the management unilaterally stopped the annual review of salary in line with the condition of service in violation of the existing condition of service and Labour Act.
Management refused to recognize the democratic rights of workers to belong to a union of their choice in violation of Section 40 of 1999 Constitution and Section 12 (4) of the Trade Unions Act (as amended). Management is consolidating the violation of the democratic rights of workers by dictating to workers to join the National Union of Hotel and Personal Services Workers (NUHPSW) instead of workers’ choice of joining the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE).
Management, using the COVID-19 lockdown as an excuse carried out a mass sack of workers and desperately declared redundancy in April 2020 leading to the sacking of 61 workers including all branch union leaders in violation of section 20 of the Labour Act. This shows clearly that the agenda of the management is to resist unionization and attack the working conditions of workers.
Due to anti-labour infractions, workers picketed the company on October 17, 18, 19 and 20, 2020 and was suspended on October 20, 2020, after the management agreed to discuss with workers’ representatives including the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and resolve the issues within a month. After hesitation, the management has been forced to resume negotiation with workers. However, workers are determined to continue the struggle.
GX FOODS LIMITED VICTIMIZED WORKERS FOR DEMANDING THEIR ENTITLEMENTS
GX Foods Limited is allegedly owned by Late Abiola Ajimobi, the immediate past governor of Oyo State.
These are the anti-labour practices: (1) indiscriminate sack of workers without notice or payment in lieu; (2) about 50% arbitrary deductions of workers salary between June and December 2019 without prior notification or agreement; (3) workers were forced to embark on leave without salary.
Rather than respond to workers’ demands, management resorted to intimidation and arrested some of the workers on trumped-up charges of stealing cables in May 2020 while two workers’ leaders (Adegoke Ayobami and Quazim Olakunle) were served letters from two different lawyers demanding a retraction of an article that was critical of the management anti-labour policies and was circulated on social media by workers or be sued for libel.
Despite management subterfuge and intimidation, workers are not deterred. The Chairman of the Oyo State Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has promised to intervene on the matter, alternatively, workers have no choice than to institute a matter at the National Industrial Court, an act that is expensive, cumbersome and time-consuming.
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR email) is appealing for solidarity action including financial supports. The highlighted struggles and interventions are currently incapacitated by funds considering the fact that virtually all the affected workers are out of jobs or rendered redundant. Some of these matters ought to be filed at the National Industrial Court while civil/political actions continue but are stalled.
Solidarity protest letters, calls and other actions are required from organisations and individuals to help put pressure on key management staff.