Finding a lasting solution to casualisation
FRESH tactics aimed at curtailing casualisation and outsourcing of jobs across the country is being put in place by the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
Though still under wrap, the tactics as proposed by the NLC is expected to bring to the front burner once more the negative effects of casualisation and outsourcing of jobs on the nation’s workforce.
Casualization cuts across virtually all sectors of the Nigerian economy such as oil and gas, telecommunications, banking, construction, mining, among others.
According to experts, the development is assuming a worrisome dimension because of the saturated labour market and quest to maximize more profits by multinationals and corporate entities.
According to the representatives of NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Federal Government has not done enough to bring the situation under control.
Indeed, some labour leaders recently alleged that some multinationals on a regular basis import ‘expatriates’ into the country to take full time employment, leaving qualified Nigerians as ‘casuals or contract’ workers with no legal status or employment benefit.
Speaking at a rally to mark the 2015 May Day in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba said Casualisation continues to be an issue in NLC relations with employers, “many of whom are not prepared to pay for the labour they use”.
Wabba said: “We at the Nigeria Labour Congress recognise the transformations that have taken place around the world of work at work place, where rigidity has given way to flexibility. However, we do not think Casualization can be an option”
He described casualization as a grievous anti-worker practice “which makes nonsense of our quest for decent jobs”.
Explaining further, Wabba said: “In-line with our promises to the Nigerian workers, the Nigeria Labour Congress under my leadership will offer strident resistance against casualization and outsourcing of jobs.
“While we encourage our affiliate unions to re-double their efforts in tackling this hydra-headed monster, we enjoin the government to partner with us to stamp out this ugly menace in our workplaces.
“In the days ahead, therefore, we shall strengthen our Anti-Casualization Campaign Committee to engage employers who are not ready to change”, said Wabba.
Also speaking on the menace, the president of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, (NUPENG), Igwe Achese tasked the incoming government to as a matter of importance find possible means of eradicating casualization of workers in the country.
According to him, government must ensure that employers of labour in the industry conform to international accepted standards at all times.
“Issues on casualization in the country must be properly looked into to ensure workers are not cheated by employers. “The menace is rather on the increase especially in the oil and gas and financial sectors of the nation’s economy.
Speaking at an interactive session with Journalists recently, leaders of National Union of Construction of Civil Engineering, Construction, Furniture and Wood Workers, (NUCECFWW), said construction companies in Nigeria encourages use of casual workers.
President-General of the union, Amechi Augwuni, said among unfair practices the Chinese companies had been indulging in were payment of slave wages, casualization of workers, among others.
He said: “The National Headquarters of the union cannot fold its arms and watch yet another era of labour slavery and exploitation, despite series of agreements reached between the union and the managements of all Chinese Construction Companies in Nigeria to put a stop to this un-holy practices.
“The actions of the management of Chinese are not just a violation of the fundamental rights of the workers, but a clear violation of the Nigeria labour Laws, Constitution and International Conventions and Standards.
“As a matter of urgency, the union is calling on the Federal Government to prevail on all Chinese owned companies in Nigeria to ensure strict compliance with Government policy on Expatriate Quota with regard to local content provisions.
“The union also calls on the Federal Government to consider strict compliance with terms of contract for Capital Project. This will enhance proper articulation of all factors of production including labour, especially as contracts are not awarded strictly on basis of use of casual workers. It is advisable at this moment that contracts should be awarded to only genuine contractors that are prepared to comply with Nigeria Labour Laws and International Labour Standards” he added.
Also, a communiqué issued at the end of the NLC National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held in Kaduna, NEC-In-Session observes that there is a resurgence of casualisation of workers in the public and private sectors across the country, adding that “This unholy practice induces slave labour, prostitution, psychological trauma and the violation of the rights of these workers and does not in any way stimulate productivity.”
The communiqué added: “What employers of Labour are trying to do is take undue advantage of hapless applicants or workers. Exploiting the weak defences of this category of people is not only morally reprehensible but defies logic. Even if the private sector, out of corporate greed, indulges in this unwholesome practice what justification does government have in doing so?
“Some banks have gone to the extent of compelling their employees to meet a target of N6 million a month and securing of bonds that make a mockery of plantation slave labour. Congress does not see how this terrible practice stimulates productivity.
“NEC resolves that the Nigeria Labour Congress shall henceforth lead its affiliate unions against any employer identified to be engaged in these unwholesome practices by employing all known trade union actions until such employer retraces its steps”, said NLC.
In an interview with The Guardian recently, Deputy Head (information) of NLC, Yaqub Denja explained that the practice of casual or contract labour in Nigeria has not been in conformity with the provisions of the country’s Labour Act, adding that, no one can defend the legality of what is clearly at variance with the provisions of the law.
According to Denja, another form of casual labour in Nigeria is contract employment. “In fact, when trade unionists tell some employers that they engage casual workers against the provision of the law, they simply reply out of ignorance that they do not have casual workers, but contract workers.
“But on investigation unionists found out that those they referred to as contract workers are workers recruited for them by some employment “agencies” whose operations contradicts Section 23 – 27, part 2, CAP 198 of the Labour Act.
“Section 23 specifically required a recruiting agent not only to obtain a formal letter from the company commissioning him/her to recruit for them, but also a written permit/license by a serving Minister of Labour; and anyone convicted of any offence under Nigeria’s laws cannot be issued such permit/license.
“As of today, no agency, company or individual have been granted such license or permit by any serving or former Nigerian Minister of Labour. The Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) may have registered such agencies, but the law required them to obtain permit from a serving Minister of Labour in Nigeria. There are specified conditions they must meet before such permit can be issued.
“Section 24, subsections 1-2 require an intending recruiter to formally apply to the Minister in writing (subsection 1) stating the particulars as specified in subsection two.
The provisions include the number of workers required; the place where the work is to be performed; the nature of the work; the wages to be paid; the duration of the proposed contract and whether or not it is desirable to obtain the workers through a recruiter.
Subsection 6 of section 24 went a step further to compel the recruiters to ensure that the environment where those recruited work meet ethical standards.
According to NLC, section 26, subsection 2a-c prohibits any recruiter from operating without a permit from the Minister, “and even when a permit is granted, a recruiter must not engage more than the number of persons stated in his application, or engage them in places not specified in the permit.
“Many of those called contract staff by employers in Nigeria today are legally not contract staff basically because the method of their recruitment as well as status, contravenes Nigeria’s labour laws.
“Many of these so called contract staff have no records with the company or the recruiter or the Minister as required by law in section 27 subsection 6 where a recruiter is required to document the particulars of the worker containing the following information:
*The identity of the worker;
*The prospective conditions of employment; and
*Any advance of wages made to the worker, as well as any other information the Minster may require.
“Employers in Nigeria resorted to the use of contract/casual labour not just to cut cost and maximize profit at the expense of the workers, and the national economy, but also to deny their workers the right to belong to trade unions since they would be compelled to implement collective agreements, subject their condition of service to the process of collective bargaining, which employers are not comfortable with for egoistic reasons or more importantly, assist employers in their search for escapist route away from workplace democracy, which globalisation have so far demonstrated to hate”.
According to experts, the way forward is for the Federal Government to develop the political will required to enforce compliance to decent and acceptable work environment by firms.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) recently disclosed that forced labour in the private economy generates $ 150 billion in illegal profits per year, about three times more than previously estimated.
The ILO report titled “Profit and poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour’, said two thirds of the estimated total of $ 150 billion, or $ 99 billion, came from commercial sexual exploitation, while another $ 51 billion resulted from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work, agriculture and other economic activities.
“This new report takes our understanding of trafficking, forced labour and modern slavery to a new level,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said: “Forced labour is bad for business and development and especially for its victims. Our new report adds new urgency to our efforts to eradicate this fundamentally evil, but hugely profitable practice as soon as possible. ”
The new figure is based on ILO data published in 2012 that estimated the number of people in forced labour, trafficking and modern slavery at 21 million.
Significantly, the new estimate indicates that more than half of the people in forced labour are women and girls, primarily in commercial sexual exploitation and domestic work, while men and boys were primarily in forced economic exploitation in agriculture, construction, and mining.
According to ILO, the breakdown of profits generated by forced economic exploitation is as follows:
US$ 34 billion in construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities
US$ 9 billion in agriculture, including forestry and fishing
US$ 8 billion saved by private households by not paying or underpaying domestic workers held in forced labour.
The report highlights income shocks and poverty as the main economic factors that push individuals into forced labour.
Other factors contributing to risk and vulnerability include lack of education, illiteracy, gender and migration.