Casualisation Of Work: How Nigerians Are Being Enslaved | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Casualisation Of Work: How Nigerians Are Being Enslaved

Posted: Jun 15, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Casualisation of work, just like corruption, seems to have become a menace that Nigerians would have to learn how to live with. In spite of various efforts by organised labour movement and series of appeals by International Labour Organisation (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. In this special report on the menace of casualisation, outsourcing and contracting of work, Sylvester Enoghase, Phillip Oladunjoye, Emma Okwuke, Abel Orupke, Saheed Bakare and Judith Eshemitan, examine the reasons for casual workers, the implications on the employees and employers and what should be done to bring the practice to the barest minimum. Excerpt:



Many Nigerians are arguably suffering from the menace of casual workers, which both the labour movement and the governments at the various levels could not find a lasting solution to.

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, 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 organised 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 casualised.

Chairperson of Global Union, comrade Issah Aremu, said the growing culture of casualisation by employers was more incessant in sectors like banks, insurance and financial institutions, food and beverage sector as well as the printing and publishing sectors of the economy.

“Currently, worldwide and in Nigeria too, workers are exposed to worsening health and safety situations wit 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 casualise over 70 per cent of their workers.

“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 non-payment of compensation for injuries sustained at work, poor working conditions, poor motivation, lack of social protection.

“The growing culture of impunity by employers is spreading across sectors like banks, insurance, financial institutions, food and beverage, aviation, and printing and publishing sectors.

He lamented that a casual worker would not be happy and therefore might not be productive as required by the employer.

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

Daily Independent also 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, while 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.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines casuals as “workers who have an explicit or implicit contract of employment which is not expected to continue for more than a short period, whose duration is to be determined by circumstances.

“These workers may be classified as being employees or own-account workers, according to the specific circumstances of the employment contract.’’

Tinuke Fapohunda, in her paper on “Employment Casualisation and Degradation of Work in Nigeria’’ published in International Journal of Business and Social Science, said that casualisation was gradually becoming a problem in employment patterns across the world.

She noted that in Nigeria, casualisation of employment had been gaining ground in an unprecedented proportion, intensity and scale. “The trend has been largely attributed to the increasing desperation of employers to cut down organisational costs; as casualisation of employment is seen as an appropriate strategy for cost reduction.

“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,” Fapohunda said.

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

The report argued that the casualisation of labour had become industry-wide and a clear attempt to reduce the cost of doing business while simultaneously breaking workers’ strength.

The Solidarity Centre had also engaged with leaders and members of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) to examine industry trends and their impact on workers’ lives, but noted that a key trend highlighted by almost every programme participant, was the degeneration of permanent employment and the increasing casualisation of labour.

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 unionised 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 15-50 per cent of union workers’ wages – and fewer benefits.

The report also noted that more and more, multinational companies, as well as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries, 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.

The National President of the Chemical and Non-Metallic Products Senior Staff Association (CANMPSSA) and National Trustee TUC, Comrade Abdul Gafar Mohammed, said that casualisation is more terrible than unemployment, as it only provides short term relieve.

“Casualization is evil, worst than unemployment, an unemployed is free but a casual is limited in freedom. Anywhere we find it, we confront it headlong. In most cases the workers themselves are intimidated by their managements and in such instance we go in to give management ultimatum and we have achieved quite a lot in confronting the menace,” he said.

National President of the National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), Comrade Lateef Oyelekan, also condemned the trend by the employers in the Food sector who had made the union lost almost a thousand of its members under the pretence of operating under harsh economic condition, only to turn around to contract jobs of the sacked workers to brokers. “All workers, whether full-time workers or those employed by contractors performing tasks for primary employers, deserve set conditions of work, rights and privileges, and certainty in career paths in order that they know they have secure futures,” he said.

Secretary General of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Musa Lawal, said although 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 high unemployment rate and economic uncertainty in the country.

Daily Independent gathered that owners of most multinational organisations ‘import’ their foreign brothers into the country to take up full time employment with all the stipulated benefits attached, but find it more rewarding to place the Nigerian workers on contract in order to deny them the benefits attached to the job, gathering that apart from the fact that this has increased the rate of capital flight in the country, it also renders the citizens, who are supposed to be the major beneficiaries of such investment impoverished and completely hopeless.

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 due, the Federal Government can only promise to reduce the monster called casualisation rather than putting a stop to it completely.

During one of the meetings with the leadership of the NLC and the TUC, the former Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, charged them to make inputs to the Federal Government’s campaign to eradicate casualisation and other forms of exploitation of workers by some foreign and local employers of labour.

Wogu reminded the then NLC President, Mr. Abdulwaheed Omar, and the then President of TUC, Mr. Peter Esele, that former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration had demonstrated its interest in workers welfare through the constitution of a number of committees on workers’ issues. Though the Ministry of Labour had actually instituted a committee on the casualization, which had hitherto submitted its report, labour and Nigerians are still awaiting the implementation of the committee report and only hope that it will not go the way of several reports initiated by the government in the past.

Mr. Segun Oshinowo, Director General of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) had also charge federal government to enact a law that will make it impossible for employers of labour to casualise workers, noting that many employers use casualisation to dehumanise their employees. Oshinowo who stated this at an interactive forum with Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) in Lagos, noted that most employers deliberately casualise workers to deprive them of benefits, insisting that the government should do well to terminate casualisation of workers as the trend has impoverished rather than enrich a lot of Nigerian workers.

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 casualisation of labour were 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 organiser on anti-casualisation, Mr. Nasir Kabir, explained that banks often employ casual workers because of the obvious desperation of young people who were 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.

“If the government looks into this issue and gives the construction firms enough funds to execute projects; they will be able to employ more persons and they will also be able to retain their workers,” he said.

He, however, noted that whenever the NLC received a complaint regarding casual employment, it immediately swung into action, adding that the NLC had picketed some companies, while others were shut down until the right thing was done.

“We raised this issue before the congress during our meeting and it was agreed that if we discover workplaces that are casualising their workers; we give them an ultimatum of two weeks to desist from that practice. “After that, we take the next line of action, which is picketing the place and that is what we have been doing,” he said, blaming many union executives of colluding with employers of labour, lamenting that such connivance had been frustrating the NLC’s efforts to tackle the menace of workers’ casualisation decisively.

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

“When we move for a motion, some of them will agree but when we start hitting the banks, they will later turn back and sign a letter of undertaking; submitting themselves to the banks,” he said.

Kabir also blamed the country’s judicial system for the delay of cases brought before the courts, saying that the defaulting organisations usually hid behind court cases. “We have cases before the National Industrial Court on this issue but up till now, we have not been cleared by the court.

“Some of them (employers) rush to the court, believing the court is a hiding place for them and as a result, workers’ casualisation is still taking place. “There is no law supporting workers’ casualisation and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) has assured us that any court delaying in any case of casualisation will be dealt with,” he said.

Kabir advised jobseekers to be very vigilant when taking up appointments, so that they could refuse demeaning job offers.

“Of course, there is unemployment in the country but jobseekers don’t have to rubbish themselves by accepting casual employment. If people reject casual job offers, the organisation will treat their staff better and respect them instead of employing more.

“It is not fair for a graduate to be paid peanuts while the records say he or she is earning more; we kick against this and we will continue to do so,” he said.