By Victor Ahiuma-Young
MISTER Victor Eburajalor, a former President of Chattered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria, CIPM, is a Deputy Group Managing Director, DGM, of Kewelran Chanrai Group, owners of defunct Textile manufacturing giant, Afprint, closed down because of harsh operating environment.
He is also a member of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, Governing Council. In this interview with Labour Vanguard, he speaks on casualisation, why some employers forbid unionism in their organizations among others.
What is your take on increasing casualisation of workers and other forms of non-pensionable employment policies be addressed?
I can tell you the problem is this; the economy is so bad. It is the survival of the fittest. When an economy is bad, employers take advantage. They will tell you; if you do not want to work as casual, fine, I am looking for casuals.
If you step out, there are 10 others waiting for the same job. What do you do? The worker takes the job and hopes things will be better. Things will never be better. When the economy is also bad, trade unions are very weak. That is the problem of our trade unions today. Many of them cannot cope. They do not have enough members to pay check-off to finance their activities.
You see where we are coming from and as a country, we have signed agreements like the World Trade Organisation, WTO. Today, an expatriate can come into the country sets up his own company, takes his profit, close down when he wants and go.
Will you blame him? If an Asian comes here and sets up a company, he is coming from somewhere, he sees the place as where to help his brothers and sisters back home. He can help them from here by sending money to them, but he prefers to bring them here to work and take over the jobs meant for Nigerians.
We do not have anything in the country that says you cannot employ the number of expatriates that you want. Those days, expatriates used to be regarded as experts, people that have expertise to offer to Nigeria that Nigerians do not have.
But today I can tell you that some of them, Nigerians teach them the job. It is not for the worker to handle that. It is not even the trade unions. It is for the government. Government is aware of what is going on, but they are busy or pretend to be busy and left the poor Nigerian worker to his own fate. I did not ever think that I will be in a country like Nigeria where I will see “expatriates” in the market hawking?
You see expatriates on motorcycles (Okada). You go to Abuja, expatriates are operating what they call super markets that are not bigger than kiosks. What has we become? Yet, Nigerians do not have jobs. I think those in-charge of governance have gone to sleep.
Some of them are colluders. They see Naira, they see Yen, and they see Dollars, which one do you think they will go for? I tell you, I did not ever think that in my life time Nigeria will degenerate to this level.
How do we address this?
If those in government, those charged with the responsibilities decide to sit up, they will do their jobs. I am aware that expatriates change jobs faster than Nigerians today. They come in, they work for a company, six months, seven months, they know the rules, they resign, go back to their country, get a new re-entry certificate and come back, immediately they secure jobs.
Within the law, immigration cannot do anything. Nobody is checking anything. I just hope the Nigerian youths will not wake up one day and say you elders, we have had enough.
We have taken our children for granted. The North South dichotomy, East and West, these young one are beginning to see a common enemy. After bringing down that enemy, they might go back to their tents. But there is a coming enemy these youths are beginning to see. Some of us have not given a good example to these youths.
We have thrown morals to the wind just to make money. You think that these children are not reasoning? I fear for this country and unfortunately, when it happens; innocent people will be caught up in it. Well, if we are to shed innocent blood for Nigeria to be better, so be it.
From your experience, why do employers prevent staff from joining trade unions?
Let me put it this way. Trade unions have always been seen everywhere in the world as checkmating employers. That is their jobs. There was a book I read where it was started clearly that if the employers of old were fair, there would be no need for trade unions because there is this assumption that employers are never fair.
If you are being paid salary, however good the salary might be, you have this feeling that the employer is still keeping something back. The employer will look at you and thinks he is paying you too much. Because the employer is strong, we need the union to counter balance.
If you look at the contract of employment, what does it say? It is like between the employer and the servant, master servant relationship. It says the individual employee can negotiate his terms with his employer. You and I know that is not possible.
So, you need the union. Like I said before, if the economy is weak, unions become toothless. If you tell me as employer that you are going on strike when textile was on, I get worried because I can calculate immediately what I am going to lose for six hours stoppage.
But if you are trading, what are you going to calculate? You just close the shops, the people who want to buy when you open the shop tomorrow, they will come back and buy.
The unions have a problem and I think they will do themselves a lot of good if they stop in-fighting. When they are busy fighting themselves and leaving the fight outside, the employer is busy getting stronger.
A successful employer today is the one who is classified as one who has been able to keep the union out of his organization. Some of the employers do not even know the benefits of a union in an organisation.
They just see the union as antagonist and something that must be kept away. I tell them, you think you are benefiting, but the worker who is discouraged and demoralized takes it out on the employer. You might not see it visibly; unfortunately, you are not making profit as you ought to. The workers too will find a way to help themselves.
If you check out what is happening today, what Muritala Mohammed retired people mostly for; divided loyalty, is very common in the country today. You have employees and you provide cars and everything, they are doing their own businesses.
There is no loyalty. You as an employer you have not shown loyalty towards the employee, what is employee going to reciprocate? We are all suffering from it as a nation.