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CASUAL WORK BEGETS CASUAL PAY? ‘Our monthly take-home pay is N2, 500!’ (1)

• They are the least paid government workers,no permanent employment, not pensionable

By our reporters

STATE governments are resorting to casualisation of workers and other forms of non-pensionable employment as part of strategies to cut down overhead cost, Sunday Vanguard understands.

Section 7 of the Nigerian Labour Act says it is wrong to keep a worker continuously on a job for more than six months without giving him a letter of full employment and other conditions of service.

Though the level of casualisation of workers varies from one state to the other, Kwara, Bauchi, Ondo, Lagos, Osun, Jigawa, Adamawa, Katsina, Delta, Cross River, Bayelsa and Yobe are exceptional with some of them having up to 5,000 casual workers.

Labour

In fact, investigations revealed that there are association of casual workers in some states.

In Lagos, instead of being called casual workers, they are tagged, ‘contract staff’.

In this case, jobs are contracted to private agencies which recruit the casual or ‘contract workers’ for government. They are common in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, as well as local governments and local council development areas, LCDAs.

It was gathered that some of the ‘contract workers’ enlisted after completing their one-year Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme, SIWES, or the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, with the hope that they stand a better chance of getting regular employment whenever there are job openings.

Sources said that the Office of the Head of Service and Civil Service Commission had, on several occasions, raised concerns over the upsurge of contract staff in the state, but affected MDAs denied involvement in the practice.

How deal is done

However, there are no official agreements between parties.

What often transpires is that the contract staff members are made to understand what they will earn before jobs are assigned to them.

When there is no major project, those in MDAs are given stipends by the heads of the MDAs or very senior civil servants till when there are jobs for them to do.

Vanguard gathered that casuals are more prevalent in MDAs that often embark on field works weekly and care givers.

Some of the MDAs are Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development and Ministry of Health through the Primary Health Care, PHCs, where casual workers are engaged by local councils among others.

A staff member, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, disclosed that, in anticipation that their employment would soon be regularised, many spend years as contract staff members.

She noted that even when the jobs are advertised, many of the contract staff members are often left out.

A health official in the state said that, considering the huge task before doctors, nurses and other care givers in the state, especially in PHCs, local councils engage casual health personnel to assist in attending to the needs of patients.

He noted that the lower cadre of the health system, PHC, is populated by three sets of workers – the certified staff, voluntary workers and non-pensionable workers.

“The non-pensionable workers are not on the payroll but are internally engaged by the councils and they receive their pay through the chairmen,” the health official added.

When Sunday Vanguard contacted the state government for reaction through the Lagos State Civil Service Commission, we were directed to write officially to the government and wait until the request is granted.

However, the Chairman of the Joint Negotiating Council, JNC, Femi Oyenubi, said: “I am not aware of any casualisation in Lagos Public Service as of today. If there is such, I should know; but I can authoritatively confirm that there is no casualisation whatsoever in Lagos Public Service.”

The experience in Osun

In Osun State, it was discovered that many parastatals employ casual workers.

Though casualisation does not exist in ministries, most parastatals use casual workers for one form of duty or the other.

Findings revealed that many of these casual workers have spent up to 10 years without being given permanent jobs.

It was gathered that many academic and non-academic staff in Osun State-owned tertiary institutions are casual workers.

Some of the workers told Sunday Vanguard that they accepted casual appointments with the hope that it will be easier to be converted to permanent staff.

While many of the casual workers in the administration departments of the institutions are placed on wages ranging from N18, 000 to N27, 000, academic casual staff members get paid according to the number of lecture sessions they attended.

Casual workers in the institutions are found in bursary department, examinations, records and transport among others.

An official of one of the institutions, who pleaded not to be named, said many institutions resorted to casualisation because they are short staffed.

“There are tasks to be accomplished, but no hands to work. We have no option than to recruit casual workers. Many times, when vacancies exist, we ensure these casual workers are given consideration,” he explained.

When contacted for comment, a leader of one of the labour unions in Osun said casualisation was nothing but modern-day slavery and condemned those involved for latching onto the difficult situation those recruited as casual labourers found themselves in.

“Imagine someone working as a casual staff for 10 years and, at the end of the day, the organisation chooses to lay him off. Where will such a person go again? I think, at this point, labour laws should be strictly adhered to,” he averred.

Reacting, Head of Service in Osun State, HOS, Dr. Festus Oyegbade, said: “Legally speaking, any employee that goes on strike to press for the confirmation of his appointment violates his employment contract under the Nigerian Labour Act. The case only has merit under the South African and Zimbabwean Labour legislations where a worker that spends continuous six months in a temporary appointment is deemed to have been confirmed. In Nigeria, this position is not supported by law.”

Jigawa reduces casual workers by 50%

In Jigawa State, investigations revealed that the number of casual workers across the two tiers of government has been reduced since the All Progressives Congress, APC- led Muhammed Badaru Abubakar assumed office, due to the slashing of overhead cost allocated to ministries and parastatals.

The money earmarked for the payment of casual workers is deducted from the overhead cost of the government agencies, and, as such, MDAs are responsible for the recruitment and payment of casual workers depending on their demands.

Head of Civil Service, Muhd Inuwa Tahir, said the government had no direct business in the recruitment of casual workers. “The issue of casual workers recruitment is not within the jurisdiction of the state government, it is the MDAs who decide and deem it necessary for the employment according to their demands. It is they that can tell you the number of casual workers,” he said.

Also speaking, one of the labour leaders in Jigawa said: “We are against the issue of casual workers because the whole idea is deceitful. The union cannot and will never accept it.”

The number of casual workers in the state now compared to the last PDP-led government of Sule Lamido has been reduced to 50 per cent.

The present government slashed funds allocated to MDAs by 70 per cent. This has made the ministries and other government agencies to also terminate the appointments of most casual workers and left a small number.

Rabiu Sakwayya, a former a casual worker with one of the government agencies, lamented that the present administration sacked him from his job where he was sweeping the streets with N10, 000 monthly pay.

Adamawa romances cheap labour

In Adamawa State, there are casual staff members in many MDAs and local councils, who go for cheap labour to cut cost and meet increasing demands. Indeed, local governments are most affected.

Findings by Sunday Vanguard showed that most of the casual workers are employed as cleaners, gardeners, messengers and drivers among other staff with little take-home pay.

It was found that the Adamawa State Deputy Governor’s office engages a good number of casual staff.

The same thing applies in most government establishments, including institutions of learning from the primary to the tertiary levels.

A Director of Administration in one of the ministries said that it would be difficult to eradicate casualisation because “no ministry or department can exist without casual workers”.

“The casual workers are even more dedicated to work than the fully regularised ones. The casual worker must come to work daily to ensure that no part of his or her salary is cut at the end of the month due to absenteeism, while the permanent staff members do not care to come to work knowing that, at the end of the month, their salaries are intact.”

A 34-year secondary school leaver, Mr. Hossana Rueben, who is a casual worker, told Sunday Vanguard that his take-home pay of N34, 000 a month is what he had been using to sustain his family of six.

‘’I have been employed in one of the ministries as a casual staff (gardener) for almost eight years running now and I have no regret because all efforts to get full employment have failed.”

How casual workers are short-changed in Katsina

In Katsina State, information gathered shows that the immediate past administration, in 2012, approved the employment of no fewer than 200 casual workers (100 each in Education and Health Ministries) to work in the 34 local government areas.

Now, most MDAs have various categories of casual workers but the Ministries of Education and Health are said to have the highest number.

In the Ministry of Education, there are two types of casual workers. In the first category, there are about 364, whose pay is handled by the Ministry of Finance. They are attached to schools and headquarters of the 12 zonal offices of the ministry and are paid N2, 500 monthly.

The second category is in-house casual workers, numbering about 40 persons and paid through the monthly release of the overhead cost. The casual workers are engaged as messengers, drivers, cleaners, security guards and cooks among others.

Mohammed Tijjani, a messenger in the state Ministry of Education, said he had been a casual worker for more than eight years and that he and other casual workers get their pay regularly.

According to him, “at the time we were engaged, we were told that, as casual workers, we stood a better chance when there were job openings particularly because we were already growing on the job.”

Katsina State Chairman of Casual Workers in the local governments, Abubakar Sani, said the arrangement was that the Local Education Authority, LEA, Secretaries engage casual workers and pay them N5, 000 each monthly.

Sani said that, in July 2012, a policy was introduced to engage 100 each in the Ministries of Health and Education respectively with N10, 000 as take-home pay on monthly basis.

He said Governor Aminu Bello Masari, during electioneering campaign, promised to absorb the casual workers when there are opportunities. In the last recruitment of about 1,900 teachers in the state, 214 of the 3,400 casual workers under local government areas were engaged.

Sani appealed to the governor to redeem his campaign promise while also appealing that the five months outstanding wages of March to July 2016 are paid.

There is no official casualisation policy in Delta – HoS

Delta State Head of Civil Service, Mr. Reginald Bayoko, admitted that some MDAs “might be patronising the services of casual workers” but it is not a conscious policy of the state government to engage casual workers.

The claim by Bayoko came just as Sunday Vanguard investigation revealed that Delta State Broadcasting Service, DBS, Warri and Asaba stations both have at least 53 casual workers with university graduates earning as low as N10, 000.

Bayoko said the immediate past administration engaged the services of a vast number of casual workers noting that the current administration moved against the exercise, saying, “A circular to this effect directed that such practice should not be encouraged.”

However, Ughelli Central Hospital and Ughelli North local government secretariat have messengers, drivers and labourers engaged as casual workers.

A senior staff of the DBS disclosed that the broadcast outfit, which is under the Delta State Ministry of Information, engages casual workers with the Warri station having 30 casual workers, as of July 2017, while Asaba, as of December 28, had 23.

Graduate casuals earn N10, 000 in DBS

Though the Managing Director of the Warri station, Mr. Tunde Omonode, could not be reached for comments, the staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “They are not called casuals but artistes are being paid from the Internally Generated Revenue of the station. At Asaba, they are 23 with graduates being paid N10, 000 while others are paid N8, 000.

Told of the presence of casual workers in some MDAs in Delta, the Head of the Civil Service, Bayoko, explained that though in the past there were a number of persons that were engaged, the employment of casual workers is not a state government conscious policy.

He said: “If there is anyone doing that, such a person is doing that on his own as the act is not a state government conscious policy. But what we have come to understand is that a number of persons, without jobs in the name of just wanting to be engaged, are the individuals the MDAs are accommodating as casual workers. Before the last administration exited, it took a conscious attempt to give permanent status to the vast majority of these casuals but there is a circular directing that such practice should not be encouraged anymore.”

We work 365 days doing bulk of the job – Casual worker

One of the casual workers in Delta described his situation as an experience one should not even wish his worst enemy. “As a casual worker, you do the bulk of the job and, at the end of the day, you are neither remunerated nor given a human face with the kind of treatment you get. And what is worse is that you don’t know your fate. It is a terrible thing to work without security or good future. You are neither promoted nor have a voice.”

Another with one of the agencies under the state Ministry of Information said, “In Delta State, you work 365 days year-on-year without regularization. The trauma is huge. The bottom line is that it is dehumanising. The system we found ourselves in is perplexing. But in order to keep body and soul together, you stay put. You see a situation where people have been casual staff for 10 to 15 years; this is the height of insensitivity.”

A security guard said the government had not regularised their employment and does not want to do so apparently because of the cheap labour it is enjoying. “Last Christmas, while real workers were going home with packages and bonuses, we had nothing. It is that bad,” he said and appealed to the state government to look into the plight of casual workers.

Kwara pays N10, 000

In Kwara State, they are called different names in the public service.

If they want to dignify them, they call them temporary staff, while, in most cases, they are simply called casual workers.

Sunday Vanguard’s investigation revealed that 2,700 of such staff are in the civil service and, in the Government House, there are no less than 15 of them.

Over the years, the government had been paying them N6, 000 monthly until 2015 when the monthly stipend was raised to N10, 000.

Some of the casual workers in the Government House have spent three years, while there are others  who have been employed as temporary staff for over 10 years.

The dilemma of casual workers in Kwara is that serially, over the years, politicians influence the appointment of permanent staff while they remain temporary staff.

One of the workers in the Government House said they had been surviving on the tips they get particularly from visitors.

He expressed concern that many staff with lower qualifications but sponsored by politicians had been offered full employment and placed on grades far above them.

According to him, efforts to make  the present and past administrations see reason and give them permanent appointments had failed, so they had resigned to fate.

Kwara State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Yekeen Agunbiade, in an interview, expressed shock that casual workers still exist in the state workforce.

He said that last year, a committee, that included Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and himself, was set up and it was agreed that casual workers should be absorbed as permanent staff among other decisions.

“I’m surprised that till date that decision has not been implemented. I will do a follow-up and let you know in due course, “he stated.

Efforts made to get the comments of the state Head of Service, Mrs. Susan Modupe Oluwole, were unsuccessful.

20% of public workers in Bauchi are casuals

In Bauchi State, casualisation of workers is being entrenched to the extent that most of the MDAs and public institutions have up to 20 per cent casual workers.

Findings revealed that the state government mandated MDAs and local governments to recruit casual workers, who are paid from the internally-generated revenue of the ministries and other fixed charges.

Some of these casual workers have been in the MDAs for more than five years.

They are found in MDAs such as Information, Housing and Environment, Education, Rural Development, Finance, Budget and Planning, Agriculture, and Primary Health Care Development Agency.

According to the Information Officer of the Ministry of Finance, Yakubu Mohammed, the ministry recruited 18 casual workers who are paid from the internal revenue of the ministry.

“Some of the casual workers in the Ministry of Finance where I currently work have been here before I got here. I am three years in this ministry and I met many of them as casual staff,” one of the casual workers said.

A staff member of the state Primary Health Development Agency said there were no fewer than 14 casual staff members in the agency.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.