Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

CASUALISATION IS ANTI-WORKERS: Labour Movement Must Begin Struggles Against Casualisation

CASUALISATION IS ANTI-WORKERS: Labour Movement Must Begin Struggles Against Casualisation

By Chinedu Bosah, Publicity Secretary, CDWR

Casualisation is a condition wherein workers are made to work without regularized status and are subjected to employment insecurity that attracts little or no benefits in terms of emoluments, allowances etc. Casualisation is a policy aimed at enslaving and exploiting workers. Many company practice casualisation because it guarantees the owners of these workplaces more profit at the expense of workers. About 65% of the total workforce in the country are casuals or contract staff and is bound to increase. Casualisation aims to weaken workers’ collective strength and thereby undermine trade union rights, reduce workers’ earnings and make workers more susceptible to bosses’ attacks.

However, some factors are responsible for casualisation, (1) the anti-labour character of the capitalist ruling elite including those occupying political offices (2) the weakness of the trade union movement and (3) the growing mass unemployment that forces people to accept all kinds of slavery condition. 70 percent of about 80 million youths in Nigeria are unemployed or underemployed. The massive unemployment in Nigeria is better appreciated with the level of crowds that besieged factories every day seeking jobs that pay poverty wage.

In virtually all the sectors, casualisation is widespread. Casualisation has become a major employment policy in the banking and oil & gas, sectors whose workers are usually seen as privileged. Despite investing over 3 trillion on the failing private banks, over 20,000 workers were sacked and workers employed in replacement were mostly casuals earning about half of the salaries of those sacked. In most of the banks 80% of the workforce is casuals or contract workers. Outsourcing of workforce in the banks has become the other of day as companies mostly linked to the management or set up by the same top management staff recruits for the banks, pay lower wage and make their commission.

For instance, on 25th July 2011, Zenith Bank Plc sacked about three hundred and twenty (320) System Administrators in Infotech Dept of Zenith Bank Plc because they resisted management attempt to convert them to casual staff. People plus Management Services Ltd whose directors: Godwin Emefiele, Ifeanyi, Amangbo Peter Olisemedua and Igbin-Akenzua Elias Eboigbe were top management staff of Zenith Bank, recruit most workers from drivers, tellers, system administrators, cleaners etc. The oil and gas which is the mainstay of the Nigeria economy and responsible for 90% of export revenue has its own dose of casualization and growing. The oil sector unions (PENGASSAN and NUPENG) said there are 4 casual workers for every full-time worker.

In 2005, Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Right (CDWR) had to intervene in Flour Mills where casual workers were forced to work with no protective/safety tools like boots, glove etc. This work environment exposed workers to hazardous chemicals. In Linda Manufacturing Limited that produces women hair weavons popularly called X-pression has a workforce with close to two-thirds as casuals. It equally has a policy called ’27 Points’ that makes it possible for the regular workers to be easily sacked and replaced with casual workforce. Dura Pack industries, a company that produces polythene bags and located around Ikeja Industrial Estate have all 500 workers as casuals. No worker has letter of employment, workers are not entitled to annual or sick leave, no promotion, no gratuity. More so, workers can be sacked at will or on flimsy excuses. These anti-labour practices and attacks on workers’ rights at Dura Pack led to the workers embarking on strike action on October 11 after some trade unions and pro-labour organizations like CDWR picketed the company on October 7 to press home the demands for unionization and other rights.

Besides, the hospitality industry is not left out as a far greater number of the workers are either casuals or contract staff who mostly work 6 days of the week with just 1 day off. Currently, some of the hotels and restaurants operate 24 hours work policy wherein workers are made to work all day for 15 days in a month, this in itself increases the number of hours from about 312 hours to 360 hours in a month without increment in pay.

Even governments have started implementing casualisation. For instance, Osun State government employed thousands of workers in a scheme known as Osun State Youth Employment Scheme (OYES) as casuals and are being paid a low wage about N10, 000 monthly. The same kind of policy is implemented by the Edo State Government and Oyo State has started implementing same poorly paid scheme. In Lagos, most LAWMA workers are casuals. Also a good number of doctors in the state public hospitals are employed as casuals!

Unfortunately, the trade unions have done little or nothing at challenging employers of lbour and defeating casualization and contract staffing. In many workplaces, the trade union leaders reach agreement with the management to collect union dues deducted from casual workers without taking interest in their welfares or rights to decent jobs. Mr. Taiwo Oyelami like many casuals in Chi Limited pays union dues until he was injured at workplace in December 2008 and the Agricultural Union refused to intervene as management abandoned him. The aristocratic and bureaucratic character of many trade union leaders is largely responsible for the lack of fight back against casualization and growing casualization in the country. Workers at Linda Manufacturing Limited do not know the union they belong let alone the union leaders that collect their union dues. This type of trade unionism is more of personal aggrandizement, lacking in democracy and a fighting leadership that is committed to the defense/protection of rights/interest.

The trade union leaders lack an alternative to neo-liberal capitalist policy and so it becomes difficult to challenge and defeat anti-workers policies. However, few places where struggle breaks out is mostly as a result of pressure from below or rank and file workers elbowing the trade union leaders aside and frontally challenging management. The CDWR fully supports this type of development which cannot only help win immediate gains but also be part of the necessary renewing of trade unions as fighting workers’ organisations. With campaigning policies the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) would be able to make the anti-casualization struggle serious by mobilizing workers in a sustained struggle to defeat the growing scourge.