CASUALIZATION, THE AGONY OF NIGERIA WORKERS

CASUALIZATION, THE AGONY OF NIGERIA WORKERS

Casualization of work seems to have become a menace that Nigerian workers have learnt to live with. In spite of various efforts by organized labour movement and series of appeals by International Labour Organization (ILO) to rid the work place of casual, contract workers so as to provide decent working environment for employees, who should be engaged on a permanent appointment basis, the trend appears to be waxing stronger.

There is also arguably no sector of the economy that contract staffing or outsourcing of contract to a third party to provide qualified employees on behalf of such companies does not exist, while the companies on their own absolve themselves of any form of provision of welfare packages for such employees.

According to investigations, some companies would engage employees within a period of two weeks and would ask them to re-apply for re-engagement thereby putting them perpetually on casual working list.

For instance, the organized labour unions, comprising of private sector unions and the industrial global union lamented recently that more than 70 per cent of private workers in Nigeria are casualized.

The growing culture of casualization by employers is more incessant in sectors like banks, insurance and financial institutions, hospitality-that is hotels, food and beverages sector as well as the printing and publishing sectors of the economy.

Currently, worldwide and in Nigeria, workers are exposed to worsening health and safety situations with increased cases of deaths and injuries at work.

“In Nigeria, companies are replacing their full-time workforce with temporary, casual, outsourced and contract workers at a frightening rate. Employers now hide behind what they call the ‘core’ value of their business to casualize over 70 per cent of their workers.

We have gathered that many companies and organizations take undue advantage of the unemployment situation in the country to keep people working under unpalatable conditions, which has given rise to casualization of labour or contract employment, thereby compelling people to work without receiving wages that are commensurate to the work done and any entitlements whatsoever.

Wealso learnt that the disparity between the wages of casual and permanent workers is so wide, while casual workers are often treated like second-class citizens and are not entitled to pension, housing fund, national health insurance scheme, bonuses or profit sharing, their salaries are often slashed arbitrarily.

Some casual employees with solid qualifications, which could be better than those of the permanent staff, are made to operate as subordinates, even while working extra hours for lesser pay.

Casual workers occupy precarious positions in the workplace and society; they are effectively a new set of ‘slaves’ and ‘underclass’ in the modern capitalist economy

It is also observed that in every branch of a Nigeria bank that consist of twenty staffs, only three are core staff: that is the branch manager, the customer service manager who also serves as the operations manager and one other operation or marketing staff.This core staffs sees and treat the casual or outsource staffs like non entities. They even abuses and curse them in the presence of customers; what a shame to our banking industry and great nation!

We also learnt that a recent report by the US Solidarity Centre had noted that the Nigerian banks as well as oil industry was shifting from permanent, direct employment towards outsourced and temporary labour.

The report argued that the casualization of labour had become industry-wide and a clear attempt to reduce the cost of doing business while simultaneously breaking workers’ strength. According to NUPENG and PENGASSAN, for every full-time oil worker, there are four casual workers. The unions argue in the report that the shift away from permanent employment was an attempt to replace unionized employees with lower paid and less protected workers as well as to transfer employment responsibilities to subcontractors.

Casual workers perform the same tasks as permanent workers, but without any job security and under ‘never-ending probation.’ They are frequently laid off, particularly just before they would become entitled to permanent contracts. Most casual workers are not union members. They receive lower wages – the report estimates between 15-70 per cent of union workers’ wages – and fewer benefits.

The report also noted that more and more, multinational companies are using non-direct and contract workers to perform key functions in the Nigeria’s oil and gas industries as well as other manufacturing sectors of the economy. Casualization is more terrible than unemployment, as it only provides short term relieve.

Casualization is evil, worse than unemployment, an unemployed is free but a casual is limited in freedom. Anywhere we find it, we should confront it headlong. In most cases the workers themselves are intimidated by their managements. Many workers are simply slaving and wasting away due to the casual status imposed by their jobs, most of them are scared of walking away from the slave labour conditions in which they find themselves, owing to the uncertainty of their future.

Much as the NLC has tried to stem the anti-labour practice through picketing and other measures as allowed by the law, the Federal Government has actually been passively concerned about the development. Even with a promise to ensure workers in the country are given their dues, the Federal Government will surely put an end to the monster called casualization.

Provision of Labour Law

Meanwhile, Section 7 (1) of the Labour Act, Cap 198, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 provides that “not later than three months after the beginning of a worker’s period of employment with an employer, the employer shall give the worker a written statement, specifying the terms and conditions of employment.”

The conditions “include the nature of the employment and if the contract is for a fixed term, the date when the contract expires.”

Based on the provision of this law, contract employment and casualization of labour are being carried out in aberration of the law.

The labour union movement also seems not to be making much progress in making companies conform to the provision of the labour law.

For instance, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) lamented that it has kicked against the practice repeatedly but with little progress.

Former NLC’s organizer on anti-casualization, Mr. NasirKabir, explained that banks often employ casual workers because of the obvious desperation of young people who are in dire need of a means of livelihood.

For the construction companies, they complain that government no longer gives them funds to execute their projects; so, their workers cannot be sustained with the little funds they have but this is not a genuine excuse to put people in slavery.

“The NLC is a body controlling affiliates and the bankers’ union is affiliated to the NLC but the major problem they are having is that the union’s officials are conniving with the executive directors and chiefs of those banks.

“There is no law supporting workers’ casualization and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) has assured that any court delaying in any case of casualization will be dealt with. Therefore, casualization + outsourcing = Slave labour. ———–TO BE CONTINUED

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