Casualisation: How Nigerians Are Enslaved | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Casualisation: How Nigerians Are Enslaved

Posted: Jun 19, 2015 at 2:14 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

In this special report last part on the menace of casualisation, outsourcing and contracting of jobs, Sylvester Enoghase, Phillip Oladunjoye, Emmanuel Okwuke, Abel Orupke, Saheed Bakare and Judith Eshemitan, examine how the massive shift from regular employment to temporary work, or jobs through agencies and labour brokers is having deep impact on workers, their families, and on the society. Excerpts:

Only recently, the National Union of Civil Engineering Construction, Furniture and Wood Workers (NUCECFWW) threatened to down-tools without further notice to Chinese construction firms over what it termed unfair labour practices in Nigeria, particularly the casualisation of workers in their factories, sites and offices.

NUCECFWW’s national president, Comrade Amaechi Asugwuni accused the federal government of failing to enforce strict compliance with the terms of contract for capital projects as well as failure to prevail on Chinese companies to adhere to the expatriate quota policy and also called on workers in the industry to be at red alerts for the next directive from the leadership of the union.

He said: “We are more concerned that the federal government has not done enough in checking the abuse of expatriate quota by Daewoo Nigeria Limited, Alcon Nigeria and other Chinese construction companies, despite several regulations that could be leveraged to curb the phenomenon, such as the regulation which stipulates that before any organisation can import workers, such positions must be advertised for Nigerians and foreigners can only be engaged if there are no Nigerians to take up the appointment.

“One of the ills of unfair labour practices in the construction industry which is of great concern to us is casualisation which has denied our members the privileges accruable to permanent staff and the right to freedom of association and the government is not putting in place the right policies and programmes that will promote good working environment for workers in the country”.

According to Asugwuni, 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 to the worker a written statement specifying the terms and conditions of employment, which include the nature of the employment and if the contract is for a fixed term, the date the contract expires.

“But the reverse is the case in Nigeria as the action of the management of the Chinese construction companies amounts to, not just a violation of the fundamental rights of the workers, but also a clear violation of the Nigeria’s labour laws, constitution and international conventions and standards,” he said.

The labour leader who stressed that the time has come for bold steps to be taken to correct the anomaly of casualisation as it will create an opportunity to address other issues of good working conditions for Nigerian workers, called on the nation’s workers in all the sectors of the economy “to open up so that bad practices will be brought to the fore”.

He said: “The Chinese construction companies, including China Engineering Construction Company (CECC), China Railway Construction Corporation Limited (CRCC) and CGC Nigeria Limited have not been observing all relevant labour laws in Nigeria hence the union was compelled to register its displeasure and will down-tools if nothing is down soon”.

He also noted that the ministry of labour and productivity had not made much effort to comprehensively address the ever burgeoning precarious form of employment in the nation’s economy as it had not been effectively monitoring the activities of private sector employers, particularly those in the construction companies.

“Other alleged anti-labour practices by the Chinese construction companies which do not go down well with our union includes but not limited to intimidation and victimisation of workers, refusal for us to unionise the workers, none adherence to the provisions of the local content policy, which made human resources/industrial relations practice difficult and non-implementation of the NJIC agreement.


Employers Culpability

A public affair analyst, Mrs. Sola Salako has asked employers to desist from retaining workers as casuals for too long.

She reminded the employers that the law required them to retain casual workers for not less than six months, after which they were legally bound to either make them permanent staff or disengage them.

Speaking on the sideline at the recent concluded consumer advocacy forum organised by her team, the Chief driver  said that denying workers the privilege to become permanent staff was tantamount to slave labour.

Salako urged them to promote peace and harmony with other stakeholders and maintain an atmosphere of industrial peace through continuous engagement of workers in social dialogue.

She said, “The issue of casualisation remains a great concern to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity as the ministry continues to admonish employers against prolonged retention of workers as casuals or temporary workers as such a practice is against the nation’s extant labour laws. Aside the legal angle, there are also moral issues involved in such a practise as it is tantamount to exploitation and slave labour.”

“I urge you all as employers to ensure that in your various organisations, work is carried out under conditions that guarantee human dignity, a fair wage and safe, healthy and hygienic environment. Workers should not be denied the right to unionise and all necessary preventive and control measures should be kept in place always in order to ensure that workers return to their home safely after each hard day’s job without being maimed or killed”.

The former Public Relation specialist urged the employers to strive to adhere to subsisting collective agreements with the workers’ unions irrespective of the harsh economic environment that had been worsened by the drop in the price of crude oil globally.

Earlier, the President, CAMPEF, Mr. Devakumar Edwin, had said that the Nigeria Labour Congress was not likely to stop its campaign against the use of contract or casual staff as well as job outsourcing by businesses in the country.

He stressed that the challenges of unfavourable tariff, poor power supply, poor infrastructural facilities, taxes and levies, high cost of importation, insecurity and unstable government policies still affected business operation in the country.

“Our domestic market has virtually been taken over by imported substandard goods such that indigenously manufactured products struggle to retain only an infinitesimal share of it. This is due to the difficulties encountered in the production of locally manufactured goods thereby making them incapable of competing with the relatively cheap prices of imported, smuggled and substandard products,” he added.

He lamented that the feeling of insecurity in 2014 led to widespread divestment, factory closures, relocation, job losses and social dislocation.


Effects of casualisation on the nation’s economy

Casualization is a practice whereby a worker works in an institution/establishment for a long time without their employment being regularised, they consequently end up being underpaid denied entitlement, and treated with disdain and disrespect.

Chairman, National Association of Judiciary Correspondents, Ikeja Branch, Akinwale Akintunde said: “In my view casualisation of workers is nothing but pure  slave labour and such practice should be discouraged at all levels and sectors.

“It is very sad that casualisation has become the order of the day as it is now so rampant in all sectors of our economy ranging from banking, insurance, telecommunications, oil and gas, just name it. Workers in these sectors no longer have regularised employment terms. Casualisation is one of the numerous challenges that the Nigerian economy and not just the banking sector is grappling with.

“Am very sure no man or woman would prefer to be a casual worker or even a contract staff but circumstances pushed them into it. A significant number of people stay in casual jobs because it had not been easy finding a job in the first place. This is not because they lack skills and qualifications but simply because of competition for available jobs.

“Truth be said, these practice is not good for the economy because casual workers continue to groan under this immoral strategy of cutting cost by employees. What employers have failed to realise is that an over-reliance on casual employment can pose serious risk to productivity, which will in turn affect the economy.

“Casual workers have suffered and continue to suffer from one degree of injury or the other in the course of discharging their duties and responsibilities without any compensation for the victims. This often ranges from minor to permanent disability, which has forced some of these workers out of jobs precipitately.

“This immoral strategy of cutting cost by employees must stop now because it is simply slave labour”.

Also reacting, Executive Director, Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC) Walter Duru said: “It amounts to taking us back to the days of slavery and should be discouraged. It also offends our labour laws. A situation where qualified personnel are reduced to mere casual workers, while expartriates who may not even be as qualified as or know as much as the nationals do is totally unacceptable. We condemn it in strong terms and will soon be engaging relevant stakeholders on it.

An entrepreneur, Gabriel Onwuora, also condemned the practice. He said:   “Casualisation of staff should be discouraged in Nigeria because it has very negative effects on the economy. It is detrimental to Nigerians, and the national economy on the long run. It causes the morale of the staffer to be low and this in turn will reduce their productivity.

As a casual staff, you are paid little or nothing therefore your economic power is low and the national economy suffers it on the long run.

“The economy will suffer from lack of efficiency because organisations that are not selling their products regularly will be forced to either shut down or downsize and this generally has negative effect on the economy”.


Casualisation In Other Lands

From Latin America to Asia, South Africa to Indonesia, there seems to be no country, which is not guilty of casualising their workforce, though under different guises. According to a report by International Federation of Chemical, Energy, General Workers (ICEM), and Mine the casualisation report across all sectors worldwide was damning.

Casualisation In Indian

ICEM General Secretary, Manfred Warda, used his plenary address to the 100th session of the International Labour Conference (ILO) on June 8 to denounce the labour practices of Swiss multinational, Holcim, specifically against contract workers at two cement plants in India.

Holcim subsidiaries, ACC in Jamul and Ambuja Cement Limited in Rawaan, were accused of blatantly violating Indian labour legislation. The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act of India stipulates that contract workers may only be hired to perform non-core functions and those who perform the same or similar work, as regular workers must receive equal treatment in terms of wages and conditions. However, contract workers in both plants are employed to carry out tasks, which are fundamental to production but receive only one third of permanent workers’ wages.

The ICEM General Secretary also made clear that it was incumbent on the ILO to urgently address the trend towards precarious employment relationships that are undermining the effectiveness of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 for workers around the globe. Also at BASF India’s Mangalore plant, 300 out of the 420 workers in the company are contract workers.

The contract workers are employed by 10 different agencies, which operate in the plant. Six years ago, there were only permanent workers working on the production line and no contract workers. Now there are even contract workers on the production line, working the same jobs as permanent workers.


Lamentations from South Africa

In South AfricaVice President, National Union of Metalworkers, Christina Olivier, revealed that contract and agency work was one of the big challenges for trade unions. He noted that his union had demanded that government should ban labour brokers as the percentage of contract and agency work had gone up.

“Workers are exploited in a big way – because they are not employed by the primary employer, they receive less benefits. They are easy to dismiss – a broker is just told to take that worker off my premise. An argument against the use of labour brokers is that they are a form of modern day slavery. They are the worst kinds of exploitation”.

Also, poor organisation among casuals means that they cannot act together to claim their rights certain exclusions in the law have been abused to convert employment contracts into commercial ones  poor capacity of labour inspectorates results in poor enforcement. It is the powerlessness and vulnerability that makes almost impossible for casual workers’ to claim their rights.



In Indonesia, casuals working in PT Cussons in Tangerang, confirmed that contract workers had to pay between one million and three million rupiah to get a job at Cussons but there is no evidence who receives this money. Contract workers are under pressure from the company. They cannot take sick leave, as they are afraid that their contracts will be stopped.

In the contract worker job agreement, Article eight says that during the contract, the casual cannot be married or become pregnant, otherwise such must resign, while under Indonesian law resignation means no severance pay. In late 2010, the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF) carried out research into working conditions in 83 sportswear-producing factories in Asia, together employing over 100,000 workers.

key findings of the research shows that Contract and Agency Labour (CAL) is commonly used by employers as a way to evade employment responsibilities.

On March 8, to coincide with International Women’s Day, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) released a report, exploring the gender dimensions of the increasing move towards contract, agency and other types of precarious work. Entitled ‘Living with Economic Insecurity,’ the report analyses global employment trends, including the global economic crisis, and concludes that the crisis has had a particularly far-reaching but under-acknowledged effect on women. This has been exacerbated by the fact that women are over-represented in insecure forms of employment.



Unions do not have an organising strategy for casual workers as they concentrate mostly on permanent staff.  Casual workers are reluctant to join unions partly because they feel alienated from trade union or because they cannot afford membership fees. Foreign companies have agitated for reforms in the labour law and government is currently piloting changes that would make it easy to companies to utilise casual labour.



The major challenge is to represent the interests of the economically vulnerable and to provide support for them to find ways through which they can sustain livelihood unions should foster solidarity between casual and full-time labour.

Whilst unions must develop the capacity of resisting the casualisation of existing jobs wherever possible, they also need to concentrate on fighting to improve the working conditions of casual workers, and building solidarity across the workforce.



The poor remuneration and lack of conditions of employment and social protection transfers the burden of looking after casual employees on society in particular.

Government, taxpayers, families and charity, trade unions should identify the causes of casualisation of labour and corresponding action; rethink their organising strategy to include all workers regardless of employment status; and take a leading role in the campaign against casualisation of labour.