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Casualisation, expressway to modern day slavery

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 By Victor Young
Section
7 (1) of the Labour Act, Cap 198, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1990, among others, provides that, “Not later than three months after the beginning of a worker’s period of employment with an employer, the employer shall give to the worker a written statement specifying the terms and conditions of employment, which include the nature of the employment and if the contract is for a fixed term, the date when the contract expires.

NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Waba (4l) flanked by other Labour leaders during the Rally to create awareness on the New Minimum Wage for workers organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress at the Federal Capital territory, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida

Characteristics of casualisation

In concrete terms, the act forbids the employment of workers beyond three months without employment letter detailing the conditions of service among other provisions of the act.

But in all sectors of the Nigerian economy, this law is only obeyed in the breach by employers with impunity and without qualms. In both public and private sectors, what is known as precarious or casual worker is the trend.

It may come in beautiful names like outsourcing or contract staffing, but in the final analysis, workers that unfortunately found themselves in the group are in servitude as casual workers.

Among the characteristics of casual or precarious employment are Lack of employment contract, Lack of job security, Long  hours of work, Low and uncertain wages, Poor working conditions, Denial of right to form union and bargain collectively.

Public awarnes

In recent times, trade unions in Nigeria especially affiliates of IndustriAll Global Union, in October held Decent Day to highlight and speak against Precarious Work in their effort at promoting the rights of workers, improving work conditions and the general wellbeing of working people..

In one of their outings, they noted that “Precarious work is non-standard employment that is poorly paid, insecure, unprotected and cannot support a household. Precarious employment does not deliver fair income, security of job, social security for families, better prospect for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organise and participate in the decision that affect them.

Precarious work clearly manifests in new forms of employment such as casualisation, outsourcing and contract jobs dictated by trends in the global labour market have become regular features in the Nigerian labour market. It is no longer limited to the oil and banking sector, it is now a common feature in telecoms, construction, manufacturing and even the public service.

“Low incomes, job insecurity, delayed payments of salaries and pensions, long hours of work without overtime payment, denial of sick leave and payment for sick leave, denial of annual leave and maternity leave, job insecurity, lack of redundancy benefits, poor health and safety conditions and non-payment of compensation for injuries sustained at work, poor working conditions, poor motivation, lack of social protection, arbitrary deduction and non-remittance of pension contributions and taxes, denial of rights to join the union and bargain collectively, are some of the effects of casualisation and other unethical employments.

It’s slavery—PENGASSAN

Speaking, General-Secretary of PENGASSAN, Lumumba Okugbawa said: “This is a cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabrics of our industry in particular. Coupled with globalisation and advent of Information Technology, the world has become a global village with shrinking workforce. Most managements have therefore keyed into this option to shortchange the average worker in order to maximise profit. Another reason is to deny them the right to be organised though we have a little improvement on this.

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We agree that there are short term jobs like three- six months, but keeping a worker for up to 15 years as a casual worker, is nothing short of slavery and should be condemned in its entirety. We therefore call for a strengthening of our relevant laws to discourage this menace. In some climes, due to the short period and fixed term of their contract, these categories of workers even earn more than the so-called permanent or regular workers. The struggle is still on to discourage this practice.

No legal protection

Speaking on evils of casualisation, Mr. Femi Aborishade, an Ibadan-based legal practitioner and activist, said: “Casual employment refers to contracts of employment which are for a short duration. It is characterized by uncertainty, temporariness, flexibility, fluctuations in workload, and so on. Casualisation, as the phenomenon is often referred to, can take several forms and called by different nomenclatures, depending on the country and work enterprise. It could be called casual labour, temporary staff, contract staff, outsourced labour (i.e. labour supplied by sub-contractors), on-call workers (called in to work only as and when they are needed), zero hours contracts (workers who are not entitled to any minimum number of hours of work), undocumented labour, seasonal labour, and so on.

“The typical characteristic of all of them, depending on the company and/or country, is that the victims tend to be subjected to dehumanising and humiliating conditions of work. Indeed, some authors have expressed the plight of a casual in a mathematical equation as “casualisation plus outsourcing equals servitude. Since many casuals are compelled by the necessity for economic survival to accept casual contracts of employment, some scholars identify the phenomenon as “involuntary servitude.

“In specific terms, casual workers tend to be underpaid and are not entitled to any rights – no fringe benefits, transport, feeding, medical care allowances, no freedom of unionization, no pension, no leave, etc. In most cases, they are only paid for days worked regardless of sickness–induced absence from work. The policy is in practice, not only in the private sector but also in the public sector.

“Unfortunately, there is no legal protection for the typical casual worker in Nigeria. The Labour Act ought to be overhauled such that, in principle, labour casualisation is abolished or at least properly regulated within the relevant standards established in ILO Conventions and Recommendations so that the casual worker is entitled to basic trade union rights. The labour movement should put pressure on the Federal Government to ratify relevant ILO Conventions. In the least, I recommend for Nigeria, the adoption of the Zimbabwean legal protection for the casual worker.

“In Zimbabwe, Section 12 (3) of the Labour Act provides protection for job security of casual workers. Under this Section, casual workers are entitled to not being unfairly dismissed. Their dismissal can only be valid if substantive and procedural fairness are shown. Indeed, section 12 (3) of the Labour Act provides that a casual contract (casual worker) shall be deemed to have been converted to a permanent contract (employee) where the employee works for an aggregate period of more than six weeks in any four consecutive months. I commend this Zimbabwean legal provision on conversion from casual to permanent worker status for adoption in Nigeria.”

Though it generally believes that the upsurge in precarious employment is the fallout of globalization, but its practice in Nigeria is nothing, but industrial slavery.”

Efforts at curbing casualisation

Few years ago, one of the standpoints of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, under the leaders of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, which made Labour a household name in Nigeria, was its anti-casualisation campaigns.

In those days, the fear of NLC was the beginning of wisdom for many casual workers employers especially in manufacturing sector. The anti-casualisation was headed by late indefatigable, Comrade Bright Anokwuru.

Oshiomhole and the committee were in major industrial cities of the country to fight casualisation of workers with tremendous success.

Sadly, the efforts were not sustained by the successive leadership of Congress.

However, affiliates of Congress who have been suffering the effects of casualisation   and precarious employment, during the just concluded 12th Quadrennial National Delegates Conference, NDC, of NLC, voiced out their predicaments in motions submitted to NDC.

They alerted delegates and the leaders of Congress, that precarious employment or casualisation of workers is not only depleting and weakening union’s solidarity and powers, but pushing the union into extinction.

Among those that submitted motions on casualisation were Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, MHWUN, Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees, AUPCTRE, National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN, National Union of Chemical, Footwear, Rubber Leather and Non-Metalic Products Employees, NUCFRLANMPE, and Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria, RATTAWU.

MHWUN, AUPCTRE motion

For MHWUN and AUPCTRE among others,  “precarious work is becoming the norm in the health sector of the country with the employers taking advantage of the increasing unemployment to violate workers right, against the ILO’s core Labour Standards on fundamental right, at work.”

“Taking into consideration the various guises of casualization or precarious Labour Practices in Nigeria, in particular in the health care sector, be it casual, contract, labour, temporary, outsourcing, they are the same as slavery and a replica of the transatlantic or trans-sahara slave trade, with its horror and backlash of bitter memory still haunting the black race all over the world today.”

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They demanded “the Federal Government of Nigeria urgently      reform and enforce Labour Laws, especially all the ILO conventions already ratified in respect of security of jobs, and decent work in the public and private sector, especially the health sector. The Federal Government of Nigeria to ratify the ILO CONVENTION 102 (1952) on social Protection (Minimum standards). While we commend the congress for its struggle against    casualization and    precarious jobs in the country and, in particular, the healthcare sector; and urge    that giving the vicious nature of casualization , Congress should still intensify efforts in dealing with this hydra-headed monster infesting the nation.

NUTGTWN, NUCFRLANMPE 

According to the motion by NUTGTWN and NUCFRLANMPE, the rising incidence of precarious work occasioned by the growing absence of trade unions in new workplaces and replacement of fulltime workers with casual and outsourced employees in organized workplaces is of very serious concern to us

Casual, out sourced and contract workers are not protected and are exposed to all kind of abuses, unfair and. unjust practices some of which include: long or unspecified hours of work, Low wages; denial or short payment of over time; denial of sick leave and payment of sick leave and denial of annual leave and maternity leave; Job insecurity, lack of redundancy benefits; poor health and safety conditions and Arbitrary deductions and non-remittance of pension contributions and taxes.

Precarious work has led to increasing erosion of basic workers rights such as freedom of association and collective bargaining. The use of temporary/casual workers had led to depletion in the membership and capacity to organize in all sectors.”

They demanded that NLC should “renews and reinvigorates its anti-casualisation campaign and deepen the fight against precarious Work.

Involuntary servitude-  RATTAWU

In the same vein,  RATTAWU, lamented that “the  work environment in Nigeria has been characterized by dominant presence of casual workers.  It is important to clarify that casualization is a working arrangement that is not permanent in nature and does not fall within the traditional standard of employment. Put another way, casualization is understood as work place setting that is having temporary rather than permanent workers.

Casual workers also known as temporary staff, do not have access to professional development, internal promotions, retirement and other related benefits, no same pay compared to their permanent counter parts, is enough to say that casualization is a form of involuntary servitude that is rooted in neo-liberal policies  Most broadcast media including the public media preferred keeping casual staff for years, thereby denying them access    to career progression and this has become an increasing trend within the sector.

“The African Charter, also enacted as an Act of the National Assembly, has provided in Article 15 that “ every individual shall have the right to work under equitable and satisfactory conditions and shall receive equal pay for work”. Casualization remains a hydra headed monster of the work environment that must be eliminated for the socio-economic emancipation of Nigeria workers.

. Therefore, Congress-in-Session is called to resolve that  any casualization beyond six months in the broadcast industry should be declared a crime against human dignity and violation of the tenet for decent work. Congress leadership should enforce the prosecution of offenders by Federal Government through the Ministry of Labour and Enforcement, any inhuman terms and conditions for employment and irregular employment contract that resembles neo-slavery should be prohibited, and that regular picketing should be employed to ensure that organizations that are deep- rooted in casualization are forced to desist from it.

 

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