NLC rallies OPS to check outsourcing, casualisation practices

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has unveiled plans to curtail the practice of casualisation and outsourcing of jobs across the country. Casualisation cuts across virtually all sectors of the economy such as oil and gas, telecommunications, banking, construction and mining, among others.
Joe Ajaero
Joe Ajaero

Joe AjaeroThe Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has unveiled plans to curtail the practice of casualisation and outsourcing of jobs across the country. Casualisation cuts across virtually all sectors of the economy such as oil and gas, telecommunications, banking, construction and mining, among others.
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According to experts, the development is assuming a worrisome dimension because of the saturated labour market and quest to maximise profits by multinationals and corporate entities.

According to representatives of NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Federal Government has not done enough to bring the situation under control. Indeed, labour leaders in the country had alleged that multinationals, on a regular basis, import ‘expatriates’ to take full time employment, leaving qualified Nigerians as ‘casuals or contract’ workers, with no legal status or employment benefit.

The NLC also faulted the Organised Private Sector (OPS), saying it is gradually losing relevance as a result of outsourcing, casualisation and contract staffing.

The organisaton lamented how workers are struggling to survive. President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, who said the challenge, has become a general problem across the country, promised to confront the issues headlong.

Ajaero said this during a familiarisation visit to labour unions in Lagos and Ogun states, where unions lamented the challenges of outsourcing, casualisation and contract staffing of workers.

The NLC chief said the challenges are based on policies of government, which tend to deprive workers of their income. He spoke how he repositioned the Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and resisted labour contractors before the privatisation of the power sector, saying the union would have gone into extinction with many workers losing their jobs.
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Besides the private sector, where the majority of workers in the unions operate, he mentioned departments in the public sector that have been outsourced. He alleged that government had to spend about N2 trillion as subvention to a company on outsourcing and contract staffing, arguing that the amount could have been used to address critical areas of the economy.

He promised to bring back the anti-casualisation committee of the NLC, stating that workers should not be at the receiving end of the flawed system. He also noted that there is a new world of work, where contract staffers could be unionised. He urged the unions to pencil down defaulting companies, which disallowed workers to be unionised, stressing that there is a need to create a Private Sector Negotiating Council (PSNC).

Ajaero, who said trade unionism is gradually facing extinction as a result of the menace, lamented that workers have been reduced to slaves through contract and casual employment.

According to him, some workers earn as little as N15,000 with no conditions of service, medicare and pension.

“All these things, we are going to face squarely. Most employers don’t allow workers to belong to unions. It is only when you belong to a union that your interest and welfare will be catered for. All those issues will be tackled.

“Some of the unions are at the point of extinction because of workplace tyranny. We have to put a stop to it. If we do that and empower the unions, make them strong and vibrant, then they will be in a position to serve their members.

“Note that whatever is affecting the Nigerian worker is also affecting the NLC. This is a burden that the NLC must carry.

“Then the issue of minimum wage, the pay that cannot take you home. When you compare the minimum wage with the cost of living, it cannot balance up. So, these are some of the issues that we will have to contend with as a movement,” he said.

Ajaero said that the congress is also ready to fight anti-labour governors for neglecting their welfare.

“This is not an era where any governor will insult us. Any governor or anybody that wants to punish workers should be ready for war because we will not allow it. We are out for serious business. All inhuman working conditions or anti-labour activities, most especially, from the governors, will no longer be acceptable.

“Many organisations have been destroyed as a result of anti-labour policies. Workers are always at the receiving end. Workers create wealth and it is time for us to also enjoy the wealth.

Ajaero said the congress is ready to engage the incoming government. He said the workers are ready to be involved in governance.
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“We will engage any government to come up and the era of sitting down and looking is over. No time for patience or laziness again. We are ready to take our rightful place and that is why we are going to engage any government that takes over.

Ajaero, who vowed not to fail workers and the people, said the leadership of the congress would seek platforms to lift them from the sackles of poverty.

“We will not betray that trust! We are committed to pursuing the interests and desires of workers, and by extension, the masses.
“We, therefore, pledge our loyalty to the NLC, workers, the masses and Nigeria. Our thoughts and our actions shall be propelled by this avowal,” Ajaero said.

The unions visited, include National Union of Chemical Footwear, Rubber, Leather and Non-Metallic Products Employees (NUCFRLANMPE), Steel and Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria (SEWUN), National Union of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE) and unions in the aviation sector, among others.

In their responses, President Babatunde Olatunji of NUCFRLANMPE urged the NLC chief to fight anti-worker practices, stop precarious jobs, fight bad policies of government for the welfare of workers and masses, as well as promote and strengthen inter-unions relationship.

Olatunji said: “Without sounding immodest, the economic situation in Nigeria is not business-friendly. The instability occasioned by either lack of economic policy framework or unclear economic policy direction and or ineffective implementation of the economic policies is having their tolls on the manufacturing sector of our dear nation.

“It is imperative to discuss and understand the state of Nigeria’s economy and come up with an adequate approach to cope with the resultant effects. These effects are evident in the evolution of strange practices in industrial relations like casualisation, contract-staffing, outsourcing, indiscriminate restructuring and redundancy.”
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The National President of Steel and Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria (SEWUN), Emmanuel Adesanya, urged him to have workers’ interests always at heart.
Also, the immediate past National President, the National Union of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), Oyelekan Lateef, bemoaned unfavourable policies bedevilling the sector.

He urged Ajaero to strengthen the sector and prevent it from crumbling, adding that over 60 per cent of workers in the sector are casual.

NUPENG President, Williams Akporeha, noted that despite casualisation across sectors, the one in the oil and gas sector is in layers of manpower, third party contract service, communication manpower and leadership.

He said the strength the union has on workers’ power is completely eroded. President of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Festus Osifo, also pledged to curb casualisation in the oil and gas industry.

Osifo, who is also the president of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), described casualisation as modern slavery.
Stating that casualisation has become a menace in the sector, he said: “This is a message of hope for workers that have not been enjoying the joy of working.
The first step to address casualisation in the industry is unionising the workers to give them a sense of belonging, which is in accordance with the International Labour Organisation (ILO).”

Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, said while outsourcing was accepted globally, casualisation should be disallowed entirely.
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He said the employers’ body was in support of a decent work environment and standardisation of employment across sectors.

“Outsourcing is globally accepted, while casualisation is frowned at. That the private sector is facing enormous challenges, which sometimes necessitate some companies going the route of outsourcing and casualisation might be correct, because of the socioeconomic situation that businesses are forced to endure. The harsh regulatory environment, tax regime, dwindling income, all contribute to making doing business in Nigeria very uninteresting,” he said.

He said NECA has reached out to unions to deepen collaboration and advocate a favourable environment that will enable businesses to thrive, as well as enable employers and employees to contribute to national development.

He said the Ministry of Labour, in partnership with the social partners has done much to regulate employment in most sectors

Recently, he said NECA and the Ministry of Labour reviewed employment guidelines in the oil and gas industry.

“It will progressively eradicate the issue of casualisation and contract staffing so that there will be standardisation of employment in all industries. The ongoing effort is also to ensure there is a standardisation of employment and decent work across the board,” he said.
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