Re-instate Victimised Trade Unionist
Re-instate Victimised Trade Unionist
DSM Comrade Sacked by Zartech for Fighting for Workers Interests
A Clarion call for Solidarity
By Abbey Trotsky
Kayode Wintola – photo DSM
The management of Zartech, an agro-allied company in Ibadan, Oyo state, on Friday November 25, sacked comrade Kayode Wintola, a member of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and the welfare officer of the local branch of Agricultural and Allied Employees Union of Nigeria (AAEUN), for fighting for interests and rights of workers in the company. Zartech, which has about 3,000 workers, belongs to the Zard Group of Companies owned by a Lebanese family who are naturalized Nigerians.
The Zartech management claimed that Wintola was sacked as a result of reorganization going in the company. This is baseless and a barefaced lie. Out of desperation to sack Wintola the management blatantly violated its own rules and regulation. The Zartech Limited’s Conditions of Service is explicit on the process before any employee will be retrenched or declared redundant. It partly reads, “â€¦Shall it be necessary for the company to reduce its labour force; the company shall advise the internal consultative committee JCC with a month notice of the cause or causes for its intended action and the extent it will reach. The selection of employees to be declared redundant shall be based on the principle of “Last in, First Out”. However with due weight or consideration of other qualities such as industry, skill, behavior and reliability.” (Section 43 A of the Zartech Limited condition of service, Revised Edition February 2006).
In the present situation (1) the management did not convene a meeting of the internal consultative committee (JCC) and (2) management did not give a month notice of the cause or causes for its intended action and the extent it will reach. Also we note that Wintola, who has been working in the company for the past eight years, certainly did not belong to the category of those who come “last” and who have to go out “first”. Furthermore, the management also did not claim to have sacked Wintola on the basis of “industry, skill, behavior and reliability”. More so, it is totally incredible that only one worker is affected in the reorganization of a company with about 3000 workers!
Therefore, the sack of Wintola is a clear case of management victimization of a worker/union activist who defends workers interest. Wintola was sacked after the branch executive of the union had accused him of “inciting Zartech workers against the management, thus causing chaos, industrial disharmony and ultimately anarchy.” This baseless accusation was contained in a suspension letter issued to Wintola and copied to the management.
Wintola was placed on indefinite suspension as the welfare officer by the pro-management AAEUN branch executive for writing an open letter calling on the executive to call a Congress of workers to discuss and democratically reach a decision on the National Housing Fund (NHF) scheme hurriedly and arbitrarily imposed on them by the management. For the statement issued after his suspension by the union see: http://socialistnigeria.org/?p=1892.
The NHF scheme entails a monthly deduction of 2.5% of the basic salary of every worker in a company. But before any worker can qualify for a building loan under the scheme he or she must have contributed 30% of the cost of building. Given the high cost of building, it is clear that rank and file workers, with most earning less than N18, 000, cannot contribute the mandatory 30% of the cost of building, say a two-bedroom apartment, in 50 years! In other words, the vast majority of the workforce cannot benefit from building loan under the scheme. It is clear that workers are being forced to contribute to NHF as a means of generating money for financial and building speculators. The scheme is a means of robbing the poor to pay the rich.
Indeed, the management had already commenced the enforcement of the scheme even before bringing it to the notice of workers. While the management memo notifying the workers of the company’s decision to commence the scheme was dated 21 October, 2011, the date for the commencement was put at 1 October, 2011. Therefore, characteristic of contempt with which it holds the workers, the management imposed the scheme on the workers without seeking their consent or even attempting to convince them on the possible benefit.
It is also pertinent to state Wintola chose to write the open letter as the only option left to make a formal suggestion to the executive. This is because the executive had arbitrarily stopped inviting him to meetings after he was issued a query by the executive over an unfounded and baseless allegations that he divulged outcomes of its deliberation that are not meant for public consumption. The information which he allegedly divulged was not stated in the query. Neither did the letter name the categories of “public” the alleged secret information were divulged to.
As a union leadership which has compromised its traditional role of defending the interest and aspiration of mass of workers in the company over time, a suggestion of Congress of workers was definitely perceived as a threat to them and the management.
Although, they did not have power under the constitution to discipline an elected officer of the union, the branch executive arbitrarily suspended Wintola in order to sustain their rotten relationship with the management at the expense of workers interests. The management is using Wintola as a scapegoat to muzzle the workers from fighting for their rights and interests in the face of anti-worker actions like the imposition of NHF scheme.
The Oyo state leadership of the union has also compromised with the management. They shamelessly refused to take up the matter with the excuse that it is within the purview of the local branch executive. We therefore call on the AAEUN national leadership and Nigeria Labour Congress, as well as Joint Action Front and other pro-labour and human rights organizations, to intervene in the matter with activities like protest letters and picketing of the company. Already, the efforts have been commenced to mobilize the workers at the factory, whose interests Wintola was defended when he was sacked, for all possible legitimate activities that could compel the management to recall Wintola. Through a leaflet that will be mass circulated, we have proposed activities like mass agitation for emergency congress of the union at the branch and protest campaign including phone calls and text messages to the principal officers of the company as well leadership of the union at local, state and national levels.
We also call on socialists and labour activists locally and internationally to send protest letters to the management. The e-mail address is [email protected], please also send copies to the DSM at [email protected]. The Personnel Manager could be contacted on +234 805 599 0055 through phone calls and text messages.