Mouka Workers Wage a Struggle against Poor Working Conditions
But Betrayed by the National Leaders of NUFCLAMPE
Mouka workers in Lagos embarked on strike action on August 11, 2021 in response to poor working conditions and highhandedness of the Mouka management. Workers’ salary was stagnated for 11 years; workers do not get adequate compensation when injured and not protected from the hazardous working environment largely polluted by chemicals. Also, there is a lack of protective equipment for workers and the management operates an overwhelmingly casual workforce that is poorly paid (about 300 poorly paid casual workers compared to 136 regularized workers). Rather than meeting the legitimate demands of workers, the management decided to attack the branch leaders through punitive transfers and harassment. The Secretary, Abosede Adams, a woman with children who are less than 10 years old was punitively transferred from Lagos to Aba while the Assistant Secretary Godwin Okon was transferred from Lagos to Ibadan. These attacks, which provoked the strike, were carried out as part of orchestrated actions to intimidate workers and castrate the branch.
By Chinedu Bosah
Despite the slave-like working condition, the key National leaders (President, B.G Olatunji and General Secretary, Joseph Dada) of the National Union of Chemical Footwear Leather and Non – Metallic Products Employees (NUCFRLANMPE) appeared comfortable with workers’ poor condition as they refused to challenge it. The current unholy alliance (‘pady-pady’) and cosy relationship between the union leadership and Mouka management mirrors what is happening in other factories and in most other trade unions including the National Union Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE).
The President of NUCFRLANMPE, B.G Olatunji, who did not intervene in the plight of the workers, was angry at the Mouka branch leaders for embarking on strike without the directive of the national leadership. As a result, he tacitly joined the management to punish and victimize the workers, and this was seen clearly when management used armed police to invade, brutalize workers and break the strike action on August 13, 2021. The branch Chairman, Comrade Adeyemi Johnson and 10 other workers were beaten, arrested and detained by armed policemen from Area F Police Command, under Area commander Mr Zongo Ali, at the behest of the management. Aside from 11 workers brutalized and detained, several others were brutally wounded and were hospitalized and the national leadership shamelessly refused to intervene.
The Lagos State Police authorities grudgingly released the workers after a campaign led by the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) and the intervention of both the Lagos State Chairperson Funmi Sessi and President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Ayuba Wabba. The General Secretary of NUCFRLANMPE, Joseph Dada and the President B.G Olatunji whose company is a 3-minute walk to Mouka Form did not show any solidarity during this struggle. NUCFRLANMPE key leaders wanted the struggle to be crushed and leaders punished to serve as a deterrent to workers and activists in not just Mouka Foam but also in other factories.
As at the time of arrest and brutality, Mouka management has consolidated on the attacks. Two leaders including the Vice President of the Union, Femi Olawoyin and Johnson Adeyemi, the Branch Chairman were sacked and 6 others suspended. It took the Lagos NLC and the National NLC to get the President and GS of NUCFRLANMPE to convoke a meeting with the Mouka Management and the meeting took place on August 27, 2021 and in attendance were the Mouka MD (Raymond Murphy) NLC Lagos Chair, Funmi Sessi, NUCFRLANMPE President etc. At the point of resolving the matter, B.G Olatunji curiously intervened and without basis called for adjournment. At the new adjourned date, no meeting was held as B.G Olatunji and the management changed the venue and barred the NLC contingent from participating. Joseph Dada and B.G Olatunji entered into a rotten agreement with the management without any discussion and laughably called it a win-win agreement.
The so-called agreement reinstated both the Vice President, Femi Olawoyin and Branch Chairman, Johnson Adeyemi Dada and punitively transfering them out of Lagos. However, 4 workers are still on suspension while 2 have been sacked. The agreement also outlawed any strike action in all Mouka premises in the future with a threat of sack hanging on these workers if they embark on any action in the next 2 years. This action is apparently aimed at decimating and undermining the branch union for the period the presidency of B.G Olatunji last. Adeyemi Johnson (Branch Chairman) was transferred from Lagos to Jos and Femi Olawoyin (Vice President) to Kano. Judging by how the management and trade union leaders usually respond to any protest from below, these workers that led the agitation may be sacked soon.
What transpired at Mouka Form is what happens on a daily basis at workplaces as rightwing trade union leaders continue to betray workers, continue their collaboration with management and government as a means of putting breaks on struggle and preserving their aristocratic capitalist profit position. The trade union movement with rightwing leadership is indirectly under the control of the bosses and the capitalist ruling elite. Already, many factories and workplaces have workers that are not unionized and those unionized are systematically casualized, sooner than later, there will be no union in most factories. Only workers and genuine trade union activists can rescue trade unions from the grip of self-serving labour leaders. This is by getting organized independently with a campaign within trade unions and workplaces to fight to enshrine measures that ensure trade unions are truly run democratically and also to replace corrupt and ineffective leaders with a fighting leadership. This will help build a trade union movement that consistently defend the interests and rights of workers to decent work and decent quality life and fundamentally help build a mass movement that can defeat the capitalist system.