THERE is no gainsaying the fact that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and its twin organisation, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) are very relevant in any equation relating to politics and economy in Nigeria. In fact, many government policies would not have been properly articulated if the reactions of the labour unions on issues are not factored in.
More than that, the labour unions have helped shape political, social and economic experience by going to the trenches on issues like June 12, petroleum products prices deregulation, and minimum wage. In the process, labour leaders have attained national and global recognition. Icons like Michael Imoudu, Hassan Adebayo Sunmonu, Wahab Goodluck, Ali Chiroma, Pascal Bafyau, and Adams Oshiomhole are now household names. Such is the impact of the labour movement on national life in Nigeria.
Despite the much that the labour movements have achieved, there are obvious yawns. In the private sector, the labour centres will have to scrutinise several practices which has had the effect of denying Nigerians of employment, especially in the executive and non-executive cadre. This, of course, has had a trickle-down effect.
Many firms in Nigeria, especially in the manufacturing and services sector are employing expatriates for positions that Nigeria can fill effortlessly. For instance, why will foods and beverage companies in Nigeria employ expatriates to the marketing function? Is it because the expatriate understands Nigerians better than a Nigerian?
Overseas, there are thousands of job opportunities, but in many countries, the expatriate or migrant will get employed only if there are no nationals qualified for such jobs. That much exists in the European Union. In some provinces in China, expatriates are not allowed to drive; he/she must employ a Chinese driver. That way, Chinese drivers are kept employed. Here, many expatriates drive themselves, while qualified drivers can’t get work.
When expatriates are employed to the mid-level executive positions in Nigeria, is it because an exhaustive search for qualified Nigerians failed to turn up one of us? Apart from the traditional things that we know our labour movements for, this is one area where they can come in to help Nigerians, as it seems many executives are losing their positions to expatriates. Worse, the expatriates are often paid three, four, times as much as Nigerians, an area of capital flight nobody has looked into. Such Nigerians who hitherto employed staff like drivers, stewards, etc are no longer able to do so, thus worsening the unemployment situation.
There should be no misunderstanding this position; this is not against expatriates generally. In fact we need expatriate expertise to help our economy grow, but not in routine schedules.
While it is hoped that the National Assembly will enact laws to protect jobs in Nigeria for Nigerians, the labour centres can step in and see how this ugly trend can be stemmed. It is in our interest.