Jobs But Decent Jobs Please,By Issa Aremu

rp_Aremu-300-150x150.jpgMr Wisdom Atukpor was a 19 year-old worker of Linda Manufacturing Company at Iju Agege area of Lagos. On the 24th of September 2014, he resumed work as usual together with other hundreds of workers in a Chinese run factory that produced hair weave on. Sadly later in the day before the close of work, Wisdom Atukpor reportedly slumped and found dead in the factory premises. Wisdom’s death has provoked mass protest of the workers of the company around the industrial areas of Agege and Ikeja. The workers accused the Chinese employers of indecent working conditions; indiscriminate job terminations, suspension, low pay, wage cut and unhealthy health and safety conditions, exposures to chemicals and fumes without the necessary safety work protective devices. As one of the organizers at the mass picketing against Linda Manufacturing on October 9th as part of the activities marking this year’s Decent Work day, I bear witness that Linda Manufacturing is a typical Nigerian company that harbors indecent work.
October 7 is observed worldwide as decent work day/ Precarious Work Day as declared by International Labour Organization (ILO). According to the ILO, Decent work involves opportunity for work that is truly productive for the economy but rewarding for the workers. Decent work must guarantee minimum and living wages for the workers. Decent work also means work that is secured and done by free workers who are entitled to form trade unions and engage in collective bargaining to protect their rights in the world of work. Decent work delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration.
However in this era of globalization, mass unemployment and undue competition for profit by global capital, workers worldwide continue to face hard times. With unemployment, the pressure is to get jobs regardless of the quality of these jobs.Workers are therefore exposed to worsening health and safety situations with increased cases of deaths and injuries at work. There is unacceptable increased demand for overtime work without corresponding reward. Workers are getting poorer because of poor remuneration.Jobs are no longer secured as employers opt for casual short term flexible employment as part of the strategies to save cost and boost profit. In Nigeria even in “well paying” service sectors like banking and Telecoms, workers are subjected to inhuman working conditions such as arbitrary target settings and lack of freedom of association to belong to unions.
This year’s Stop Precarious Work campaign is being organized against the background of deepening erosion of the rights of workers at work. Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and sections 9(6a) and 9(6b) of the Labour Act cap 198 Laws of the Federation 1990 guarantees the unfettered rights of Nigerian workers to freely associate and join the union. Nigerian labour laws guarantee rights to confirmed and secured jobs, minimum wages and pension, prohibit child labour and ensure minimum hours of work and minimum safety standard at work. But these laws are mostly obey in the breach calling to question the role of the Inspectorate department of the Federal ministry of Labour.
It is also an essential part of the ILO’s fundamental principles and rights at work that workers shall be free to exercise the right to freedom of Association and the right to organise and engage in collective bargaining as contained in conventions 87 and 98.
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 casualise over 70 per cent of their workforce. 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 nonpayment 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 employment practices currently embraced by employers. Unprotected and exploited workers are anot happy workers and can therefore not be productive workforce needed for the much desired transformation of Nigeria.
Nigerian labour laws in spite of the need for review still offer great protection for working people. Regretably, these progressive laws are are being violated with impunity by some employers in the private sector. Such anti- union Employers include Sino PP Limited, a sack manufacturing company in Kano. It engages in open disregard for the law by refusing to honour the judgement of the National Industrial Court (NIC) in favour of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria after 10 years of laborious struggle to organize workers in the factory. The Chinese employer variously disregards court rulings in farvour of unionization even in the face of contempt and mass actions of organized labour. The growing culture of impunity by employers is spreading across sectors like Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions, Food and Beverage sector with notorious Employers like La Casera in Isolo and UTC Ilupeju, Lagos, in the Aviation sector with employers like Arik Air and in the Printing and Publishing and newspapers houses. Nigeria deserves investment including foreign investment for growth and development. But we must interrogate the quality of investment based on slave labour as distinct from free labour, that is well remunerated and protected. Nigerians certainly need work but decent work not precarious unrewarding work that leads to death as in the case of the late Mr Wisdom. The Federal Ministry of Labour must look into this tragic case of Mr Wisdom, bring the recalcitrant employer to book and ensure adequate compensation under the Employees Compensation Act.
Issa Aremu mni

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