As MTN allows workers to join union

Stories by Victor Ahiuma- Young,

IT is a new dawn of industrial relations practice in the telecommunication sector  in the country as one of the pioneers of Global System for Mobile, GSM, communication, in Nigeria, MTN Nigeria, after a protracted struggle with organised labour, few days ago, opened its doors for its workers to join union.  .

The GSM operator which has now entered the annals of trade unionism in Nigeria as the first private sector GSM company to allow its workers the right to freely associate and form union as enshrined in session 40 of the Nigerian constitution and Convention 87 of the International Labour Organisation, ILO, achieved this feat when Private Telecommunication Senior Staff Association of Nigerian, PTECSSAN, inaugurated its MTN branch in Lagos.

The epoch making event was attended by, among others, representative of the Controller, Federal  Ministry of Labour and Employment, Zikala Youdiowei, Lagos, leaders of United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, including Joe Ajaero, President, Didi Adodo, General Secretary, Chris Onyeka, Deputy General Secretary,  Tokunbo Korodo, Lagos Chairman, all of ULC and Manager, Industrial and Employee’s Relations, MTN, Chinwe Ugo-Onyegbula, among others.

*Telecom mast

Speaking at the event, an elated President of PTECSSAN, Oladapo Moses, said MTN Nigeria as a company had been unionised, but informed that “the challenges we face in the telecoms sector is very huge. Before, it has been lucrative. But now, employers are moving towards outsourcing of workers and a lot of sharp practices which affect workers negatively makes it important for all workers in the sector to be unionised.

“There is no severance package in the sector, no matter the number of years a worker has spent. When you retire as a worker, there is  no benefit. That is why our union is fighting that all workers should be unionised so that we can negotiate for their conditions of service and have a good package for them. Our main objective is to have all workers in MTN unionized, so that they can have better packages, negotiate their own conditions of service.

“We hope to achieve a good working condition for workers, and ensure that employers enjoy more returns on investment from higher productivity from workers.  Job stability is important. Where employers get it wrong is in the area of terminating employment of workers and bringing new ones. They fail to realize that the workers they are sacking have garnered enough experience to grow the business. What is needed to attract more investment is to ensure that all workers are unionized; because with that you can have loayal employees work for over 20 years and  more experiences to grow the Organisation. Some companies don’t even have permanent employees. This has a negative effect on the growth of businesses. Casualization of workers is evil, a bad trend in Nigeria and as a  union, alongside our centre, will be working with our lawmakers to ensure that things like that are no longer fashionable.”

Unionism, a right

On his part, President ULC, said “Every company in Nigeria must obey the laws of this country and the issue of unionization is enshrined in the constitution. PTECSSAN is a legitimately registered trade union; the issue of union is not a matter of choice, or doing labour a favour. The management of MTN is working to obey the law of the land and I believe that everywhere they are, workers are unionized. That is a universal human right rule that must be obeyed, even in Nigeria, the constitution recognises it.

“If any management refused to work with the union, it means violating the law. Workers in unionized sector perform better than those from sectors not unionized. Un-unionsed  environment is more prone to sharp practices and where people cut corners. Unionized workers receive pep talks from their union leaders and workers tend to obey them more than their management.

“In the power sector, we tried that experiment, when their revenue dropped, we moved round and spoke to the workers and we got feedback that there is an increase in revenue. So, if MTN key into unionization, they will see a lot of benefits.”

Adodo later administred oath of office on the eight-member elected officials, with Elisha Adamu, as chairman, and Esther Noag, as Secretary.

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