By VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG
ON Monday October 7, 2013, IndustriALL Global Union marked World Day for Decent Work. For IndustriALL Global Union, the Decent Work day provided a critical platform to further strengthen its Stop Precarious Work Campaign and remind employers and Governments to act responsibly on workplace issues for workers and also mobilize and call workers to action against all forms of violations of the rights of workers.
In Nigeria, affiliate unions and civil society allies, took to the streets of Lagos to protest increasing casualisation of workers, outsourcing, contract staffing and anti-union posture by employers among other perceived unfair labour practices.
The affiliates are National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, Chemical and Non-Metallic Products Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, CANMPSSAN, and National Union of Chemical, Footwear, Rubber, Leather and Non Metallic Products Employees, NUCFRLANMPE. Civil society allies under the Joint Action Forum, JAF, Democratic Socialist Movement, DSM, and Campaign for Workers Democratic Rights, CWDR were also part of protest.
The protesters led by IndustriALL Global Union, African Region Chairman and General Secretary of NUTGTWN, Comrade Issa Aremu alongside civil society allies in a road show, called for a stop to all forms of precarious employment in Nigeria.
The protesters marched from Acme Road through Aromire Avenue, Oba Akran, Niwil Close to Allen Avenue in Ikeja.
They carried various placards with inscriptions such as “Stop casual and contract work”; “respect workers rights”; “Equal pay for equal work”, “Just and humane conditions of work”, “Improved health and safety conditions. ‘There should be respect for freedom of association”, “Respect for collective bargaining”, among others.
Addressing the gathering at the Textile Labour House on ACME Road, Ogba Lagos, before the mass rally, Comrade Aremu, reminded the gathering that the struggle for decent work was historical.
He recalled that workers in colonial employment in the mines, railway and colonial public service were not only poorly paid, they were discriminated against and denied the right to unionism. He stressed the sacrifices of the heroes of trade union movement like Pa Michael Imoudu, H.P Adebola, S.U. Bassey, Wahab Goodluck and others, in negotiating freedom, improved pay and the right to form unions during brutal colonial record.
According to him, ”workers and trade unions are concerned that there is a new form of colonialism in which employers are destroying the many gains of workers struggle. Employers now engage workers on temporary basis without good pay, good conditions of work, good health and safety provision, social protection and very important without the right to the union.”
Other speakers including CANMPSSAN’s President Comrade A.G. Mohammed and the Secretary of JAF, Comrade Abiodun Aremu, stressed that the campaign to stop precarious work was critical in the struggle to restore the right of workers to organize and join the union as the basis for collective bargaining and social dialogue.
Dura Pack, Majestic PP Woven Sack picketed
The march continued through the Ikeja industrial area and descended on two companies said to be “notorious for not allowing unions”; Dura Pack and Majestic PP Woven Sack Ltd.
Speaking at the picketing of Majestic Manufacturing Sack, Comrade Aremu maintained that Nigerian employers were now reinventing colonial anti-labour practices.
He urged the Federal government to reverse the situation with a view to promoting sound labour practice. Also speaking, Secretary of JAF Comrade Aremu decried the degrading work environment in the country, and urged the Federal government to use the Decent Work celebration to implement agreements reached with labour in the country
Similarly, President of NUTGTWN, Oladele Hunsu called on employers to ensure that workers got the minimum guaranteed standard of reward, saying “We are picketing some of the anti-workers’ companies today as a note of warning to other employers of labour in the country that do not have regard for their workers.”
The unions and their allies got the management of the two companies to allow their workers to belong to union by immediately constituting a seven-man executive in Dura Pack and ensuring that the management of Majestic PP Woven Sack signed an agreement to allow workers join the union. Workers of the two companies expressed gratitude to the unions and the civil society allies for the unionization and an end to alleged culture of impunity from employers who subjected workers to compulsory 12 hours work a day without a clear contract of employment in clear violation of labour laws and International conventions.
Dura Pack workers on strike
Meanwhile, Labour Vanguard gathered that the workers of Dura Pack Industries are currently on strike following alleged refusal of the management to recognize the union and its officials. Workers had joined NUCFRLANMPE on October 7 and elected their leaders.
However, the company which produces different types of packs/nylons with about 500 workers, is said to have refused to accept the union. It is owned by a Chinese businessman. Workers are demanding better working conditions, increment in wages, right to join a union of their choice, an end to victimization of workers’ and the regularisation of employment by issuing employment letters to all staff among others.