Evils of Casualisation: Airtel will not be allowed to enslave Nigerians

Press Conference by Comrade Abdulwahed Omar, the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) held on Tuesday 4th October 2011, at Labour House, Abuja

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) welcomes you to this press conference which is primarily to expose the evils of casualising permanent work, and the decision by the Airtel Management to enslave Nigerians on the 51st independence anniversary of our country.

As you know, Airtel took over the GSM Service Provider Zain. The company employed a handful of workers and decided to turn almost all the permanent jobs in the company into casual work.

Rather than employ staff to work in the company, Airtel contracted out the permanent jobs to two Indian companies; Spanco Channel BPO Limited and Tech Mehindra. Since these two parasitic companies cannot do the job, they in turn hired three Nigerian companies; HR Index, C.C. SNL and Bezeleel to hire Nigerians for the Airtel jobs.

Airtel then seconded hundreds of its staff inherited from Zain to these third party companies. Some of these staff had worked for seven years! It is under this exploitative arrangement the Nigerian staff were made to work; some of them without letters of appointment and identity cards, and non with a Condition of Service. These categories of workers were also denied all rights they were entitled to as Airtel staff or are supposed to benefit as staff.

Under such unbearable working conditions, the workers went on strike in July 2011 to demand for basic rights including the right to unionise and payment of incentives paid by Airtel to staff.

The NLC and its affiliate union, the National Union of Posts and Telecommunication Employees (NUPTE) intervened to protect the workers against the power of the transnational Company, Airtel, and its quite powerful collaborators in government who were threatening the workers.

On Wednesday, 27th July. 2011 the Airtel Network signed a three-point agreement with the NLC and NUPTE which was witnessed by a mutually agreed mediator, Bamidele Aturu Esq. The agreement signed by Airtel Director, Paul Usoro, SAN, and Jubril Saba, its Human Resources Manager stated clearly that the “Outstanding Third Quarter, 2010 and First Quarter 2011 Incentive Scheme “…shall be paid across board to all call centre/shop employees on modalities to be worked out by the management of Airtel on or before the 31st day of August, 2011 in consultation with the workers representatives”.

The agreement also provided that no worker will be victimized as a result of the industrial action and that the Mediator will be allowed to “resolve all outstanding industrial relations issues among the stakeholders as soon as practicable”.

Unfortunately, the Airtel Management has not implemented this agreement despite spirited efforts by the NLC, and advice by the Mediator.

To circumvent implementing this agreement, to avoid paying the workers their entitlement and to punish them for joining a union, the Airtel Management in collaboration with its parasitic partners offered the workers impossible conditions if they are to retain their jobs. They asked the workers to accept :

1. 60 per cent pay cut

2. Reduction of leave from thirty-six (36) days to six (6) days

3. A working week of six days (8 hours/day shift = 48 hours/week)

When the workers refused, Airtel decided that its Call Centres and other places these staff work should be closed and new staff recruited. When on September 30, 2011, on the eve of our country’s independence anniversary, the staff reported for work, they were shocked to find their offices shut.

Since Airtel and its partners in the enslavement of Nigerians decided to close the offices, the NLC will ensure they remain shut. The Labour Movement will not allow Airtel to do business in Nigeria if it denies workers their fundamental human rights including that of unionization which is guaranteed under Section 40 of the Nigerian Constitution.

The NLC advises Airtel Network and its collaborators to return to the negotiation table and allow the Mediator it approved, to resolve all matters otherwise, it will face with industrial actions by the NLC and its affiliates.

It is inconceivable that a company like Airtel which made over 50 per cent of its first year $17billion revenue from Nigeria alone, will seek to place Nigerians on less than half salary and deny them basic rights. This advice to Airtel, also serves as notice to all other local and foreign companies that are enslaving Nigerians that the days of exploitation are at an end.

The NLC calls on the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity to wake up to its duties and defend Nigerians against naked exploitation and injustice by companies like Airtel. Congress also calls on the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan to protect, defend and advance the interests of the Nigerian working people rather than allow them to be enslaved in their country by unscrupulous employers and business interests.

While workers intend to resolve these matters through peaceful dialogue and collective bargaining, the acts and actions of the employers will determine Labour’s appropriate reaction.

Thank you.

Courtesy: http://www.nlcng.org/search_details.php?id=293

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