CDWR WELCOMES THE RENEWED INTEREST OF THE NLC TO RESIST CASUALISATION
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) welcomes the renewed interest of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to fight casualization at workplaces. This indication was in a statement credited to Comrade Joe Ajaero, NLC President, during his visit to some industrial unions in Lagos as reported by Guardian newspaper on March 14 2023.
Casualisation is an anti-labour and indecent work practice that puts workers in a precarious and slave condition in the quest for more profit by the capitalist business owners. In the last 15 years, casualization and precarious work practices have not only been entrenched but also increased from 55% to 70%, as a proportion of workforce, according to CDWR study. Though, it is more widespread in the private sector, there also elements of it in the public sector.
In the report, the NLC President, Joe Ajaero correctly attributed the casualization scourge to policies of the government and the Organised Private Sector. While it is true that the capitalist government and the private sector are responsible for growing casualization, we make bold to state that some of the affiliate unions do not lift a finger to challenge the evil. As a matter of fact, some leaders of some of the affiliate unions are complicit including assisting business owners to entrench casualization in factories and workplaces for their own selfish interest.
Casualisation has been so entrenched to the extent that most workers in traditionally privileged and better-paid sectors like banks, oil and gas, aviation etc., are not spared. There are also many factories with high numbers of casuals and in some cases over 80 percent of the workforce are casuals. Yet, trade unions are organized in those factories, overseeing the extinction of the same union they lead in as much they are paid by the management. It is also instructive for the NLC to note that the scourge of casualisation has also started creeping into the public sector, a sector that is hitherto known for job security.
The food and chemical industries have the highest number of casual workers. This is not only because they are private sector based but also partly because the leaderships of the Food Union (National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees) and Chemical Union (National Union of Chemical, Footwear, Rubber, Leather and Non-Metallic Products Employees) consciously assist management to implement casualization and/or deliberately refuse to challenge it. So, it is an irony that both Presidents of the Food Union and Chemical unions spoke against casualization at the meeting with Joe Ajaero but never did anything tangible to resist it in their industries.
For instance, through solidarity interventions in workplaces, we discovered how labour leaders in Sumal Foods in Ibadan, with the backing of the state and national leadership of the Food Union, set up outsourcing companies which employ casual and poorly paid workers for the company while they get juicy commission in return. Following the solidarity of the CDWR with the striking workers of Sumal Foods in October 2018, the Food Union leadership connived with the management to launch attacks on our members. Since then Comrade Abbey Trotsky (Oyo State CDWR Coordinator) has faced persecution from the state at the behest of Sumal. This includes several arrests of Abbey by the Police and DSS and subsequent arraignment on trumped-up charges at the Magistrate Court. Not only that, the outsourcing companies whose owners include the corrupt Food Union leaders also filed 2 frivolous civil cases against comrade Abbey at the Industrial Court.
We hold that fighting casualisation with such brands of pro-management and self-serving union leaders is a serious challenge that must be confronted by the NLC national leadership. For us, this further underscores the need for a fighting and democratic trade union leadership who consistently protect the interest of workers and accountable to them at all levels.
Therefore, the CDWR supports the plan to set up the anti-casualisation committee as the first step in the fight against the menace. We urge the NLC leadership to broaden the committee and replicate the same in all the states of the federation. However there is a danger that such a committee will simply be populated by bureaucrats who are already compromised by employers and may not be willing to lead a serious struggle. Therefore to succeed, such a committee should be democratically constituted by activists from the rank and file and its activities must be subjected to the control of the membership. Most importantly, the struggle against casualization should also be linked to the struggle for a living wage, better working conditions, and a safe working environment.
Comarde Rufus Olusesan
Comrade Chinedu Bosah
National Publicity Secretary