Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM




By Chinedu Bosah
Stop Precarious work demo - photo DSM

Stop Precarious work demo – photo DSM

Workers and some key leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and members of pro-labour organizations affiliated to Joint Action Front (JAF) converged on October 7, 2015 at the secretariat of the textile union in Lagos to mark this year World Decent Work Day.

A highlight of this year event was the presence of the two factional presidents of the NLC Ayuba Wabba and Joe Ajaero. This suggests that a great progress has been made in the process of ending the crisis which started at the NLC’s Delegate Conference in March. It is also significant that the labour leaders demonstrated the readiness to work together on the issues that affect workers.

One of the residents of PHCN Quarters Egbin - photo DSM

One of the residents of PHCN Quarters Egbin – photo DSM

It was also the first the NLC as a trade union federation has marked the day in Nigeria. It used to be celebrated by some private sector unions affiliated to Industrall, a global federation of trade unions.

After about one kilometer procession, the protestors were divided into three groups to picket Egbin power plant, VIK Industries and DDL.

VIK is an Indian owned rubber/plastic company located at the Ajao Estate while DDL is a communication company located at Ilupeju. These companies have blocked the unions from unionizing the workers and this prompted the picketing. The Egbin power plant is one of the privatized electricity generation companies.

Protesters at Egbin - photo DSM

Protesters at Egbin – photo DSM

At VIK Industries, the management instructed the guards to lock the gate and refusing the protesters to gain entrance for about 40 minutes. It took the intervention of some of the workers before the gate was forced open amidst jubilation from the protestors. However, the workers were afraid to identify with the protestors for fear of victimisation from the management as cameras were everywhere apart from the management staffs who were also watching from the side. The workers were also indifferent not because they are supporting the management, but because there was no significant mobilization of workers by the union to support the struggle for unionization.

The last attempt by the National Union of Chemical, Footware and Non-Metallic Workers (NUCFRLANMPE) to unionise these workers was not only frustrated but the management also mobilized some of the workers to embarrass the union officials. After about one hour, some armed policemen were drafted to the company and tried to intimidate the protestors but later back down after a heated argument. Subsequently, labour leaders and management held a meeting where it was agreed that the management and the union officials should work towards unionizing the workers in the company in the next one month. Virtually all the workers are casuals, and workers reportedly earn a paltry sum of N700 per day.

At Direct on Data Limited (DDL) the management promised to allow unionization within one month. The workers at DDL used to be members of National Union of Posts and Telecommunication Employees (NUPTE) but after the new management took over early this year all efforts to join a union have been blocked. The union organizing the workers and seeking to unionise them is the Private Telecommunications & Communications Senior Staff Association of Nigeria.

Protesters led by Ayuba Wabba and Joe Ajaero - photo DSM

Protesters led by Ayuba Wabba and Joe Ajaero – photo DSM

The Egbin power plant in Ikorodu was picketed to protest against the violence unleashed on the former workers of PHCN who are still resident at staff quarters by some hoodlums at the behest of the management. The power plant management wanted to take over the quarters but the workers insisted that it was not part of the properties sold to them by the government. Truly, apart from the power plant which was located over 2 km away from the quarters, there was also in the premises the power transmission company which has not been privatized and whose workers also reside in the quarters.

The power plant management has sued the affected workers, who insist they have right to buy their residences from the government, but did not wait for the court to decide on the matter before sending hoodlums to destroy many houses. This included damaging the roof which has left many houses flooded whenever it rains. This dastardly act was carried despite the heavy presence of armed soldiers and police who would later try to prevent the protesters from entering the premises. The picketing lasted for about three hours during which the labour leaders had separate meetings with the management of the power plant and Transmission Company. The management of the power plant were issued with a two-week ultimatum to repair the affected houses.

It is commendable that trade unions marked the decent work day with picketing and protest but such actions must not be reduced to an annual ritual. Rather, they should sustain the struggles against all anti-labour practices such as casualization, contract staffing, poor condition of service etc. which are daily experience of workers.

About 1,000 people representing different unions affiliated to the NLC as well as JAF participated at the protest march and picketing.