Casualisation, Precarious Threat To Decent Employment By Linda Eroke


Analysts have described contract staffing and precarious work as major

problems besetting decent work and social justice in the Nigerian work

environment.

It is heart-breaking to note that Nigerians are forced by the

realities of excruciating unemployment to sign any contract of

employment just to have a job. In most cases, the agreements were

never entered on equal terms but were forced down the throat of the

workers by the realities of the country’s labour market.

Though there are efforts by government to boost employment generation

in the country, this has not been followed by assurances of decent

work and worker protection given the increasing number of

contract-based employment in the nation’s economy, experts have

insisted.

It is pertinent to also note that contract and agency labour and

precarious forms of employment have been exploding in the country,

bringing with it two categories of workers: one with good secure jobs

and another category of workers faced with short term jobs, low wages,

no social protection and a loss of rights.

Specifically, the massive shift away from regular employment into

temporary work or jobs through agencies and labour brokers is having a

deep impact on all workers, their families, and on the society.

According to analysts, the erosion of the employee-employer

relationship, often the basis of labour law, is leading directly to a

growing number of violations of workers’ rights.

There is therefore a disconnect in employment and productivity

resulting from policy changes, especially those inspired by the

international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the

International Monetary Fund (IMF), which have in recent years

encouraged work flexibility and brought with it a lowering of work

conditions at both national and international levels.

This is in addition to the global economic and employment crisis that

have continued to threaten the future of workers all over the world

particularly in developing nations like Nigeria.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has emphasised that the

expansion of precarious forms of work and deregulation of the labour

market are not the answer to the employment crisis. Indeed, the

international labour centre had maintained that the insecurity of

working people over recent decades was a significant contributor to

the recession.

Moreso, it has been established that agency hires and temporary

contracts destroy job security and undermine all other rights and

promote gross exploitation of both the temporary worker and the

permanent employee working alongside them.

There are instances where workers employed on an agency type

arrangement with inferior wages and conditions are being used to

reduce and eventually eliminate a permanent workforce of long

standing.

This is what is happening in nearly all sectors of the economy –

manufacturing, construction, banking, telecommunications, oil and gas

where contract staffing and casualisation has become the order of the

day as workers in these sectors no longer have regularised employment

terms.

Good jobs are falling prey to corporate cost-cutting moves at the

expense of working families. Too many jobs are being outsourced,

contracted out, or reclassified under a barrage of legal definitions

designed to keep pay down, benefits low, and the unions out.

Contract Staffing and Precarious Work

Contract staffing and precarious work refers to all forms of

employment that are not permanent in nature. The term contract implies

that the job is not of a permanent nature, while the word ‘precarious’

refers to the relative higher insecurity associated with it.

It is sad to note that permanent jobs are gradually being eroded by an

increasing reliance by employers on labour hire via employment

agencies. This is because employers have come to realise that

dismissing workers with no rights to severance pay or notice periods

is a cheap and easy way for them to reduce their workforces. This

trend has had significant and far reaching impacts on employment;

given the dangers that precarious employment poses for society.

“Some employers in Nigeria argue that the use of outsourcing in some

cases may not necessarily be to cut costs but to help them concentrate

on their core services while contracting out the ancillary services to

labour and service contractors who specialise in these areas.

“This practice also gives them the freedom to ‘hire and fire’ casual

employees at will. However, for the worker the issue is that there are

no better options available to meet her economic needs. Where she is

faced with the choice between casual/contract work and no work at all,

the former will be the choice” (Danesi, 2011, p3).

More worrisome is the fact that most multinational companies operating

in the country bring in expatriates to take full-time employment with

all the benefits that accrue to the job while Nigerians are placed on

contract which is being renewed without benefits. This contravenes

Section 7 (1) of the Labour Act, Cap 198, Laws of the Federation of

Nigeria, 1990.

The Act 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 when the

contract expires.”

Also Section 17 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal

Republic of Nigeria requires that “the sanctity of the human person

shall be recognised and human dignity shall be maintained and

enhanced.”

The ILO, having recognised the dignity of the human person, has come

up with ILO Conventions which are labelled core labour standards based

on human rights especially the respect for the dignity of labour.

These Conventions address workers’ rights internationally in the

following areas: the right to organise and bargain collectively; the

right to be free from slavery or bonded labour; the elimination of

worst form of child labour; the right to be free from discrimination;

and the right not to be unfairly dismissed.

However, findings have shown that employees engaged as contract staff

or in non-standard work arrangement are usually denied the above

rights in many organisations and this phenomenon has continued to

elicit concern among stakeholders.

Factors Hindering Fight against Casualisation

Analysts have blamed this on the current challenges facing industrial

relations practice in the country, and key among these are weak and

unfavourable labour laws, the ease with which government and employers

abandon signed agreements with the labour unions at the slightest

opportunity, the corruption in the judiciary and judgments that create

doubt as to whether the judiciary is still the last hope of the common

man.

Other challenges include the “profit before workers” syndrome, the

global financial crises and the unprecedented rate of unemployment in

Nigeria, increasing use of outsourcing, temporary employment contracts

and other forms of precarious work to undermine trade union rights.

Chairman, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) Rivers State Council,

Mr. Chika Onuegbu, described the current labour laws applied by the

law courts in cases of termination /dismissal from employment as

harsh, unfair and inequitable.

He added that the law does not take due cognisance of the circumstance

of the Nigerian worker and the Nigerian working environment.

“The common law principle of Master and Servant Relationship, which is

applied by the law courts in Nigeria including the National Industrial

Court (NIC) in cases of termination /dismissals from employment in the

so-called employments without statutory flavour (employments in the

private sector and a few public sector employment) is harsh, unfair

and inequitable as it does not take due cognisance of the circumstance

of the Nigerian worker and the Nigerian working environment.

“The principle provides that in all employment governed only by the

agreements of the parties, and not by statute, removal by way of

termination/dismissal will be in the form agreed to, which in most

cases is as contained in the letter of appointment.

“Any other form connotes only wrongful termination or dismissal but

not to declare such dismissal/termination null and void. The only

remedy is a claim for damages for that wrongful dismissal and that

claim is limited to the conditions of service which in most cases are

stated in the letter of appointment.

“The principle even goes further to state that a master is entitled to

dismiss his servant from his employment for good or for bad reasons or

for no reason at all, and that such an action, even if unlawful,

brings to an end the relationship of master and servant, employer and

employee,” he explained.

Speaking further Onuegbu observed that the bargaining power of the

individual worker is of little importance in practice, especially in a

country like Nigeria where the rate of unemployment is unprecedented

and people are forced to sign any document in the name of contract.

This, he stated, accounts for the reason why contract staffing and

outsourcing have become the order of the day in the country.

“Let me also add that there are many Nigerians that work without any

form of signed contract or agreement. They are usually referred to as

casuals. The bad economy has made it such that despite the fact that

casualisation is illegal under the Nigerian labour laws, millions of

Nigerian workers fall under this category. Nigerians are on daily

basis forced by the harsh economic situation to work in the most

debilitating conditions without any form of signed contract or

agreement just to earn a living.

“Also, some companies in the oil and gas industry now claim that the

Nigerian oil and gas industry content Development Act mandate them to

outsource 90 per cent of all jobs in their organisation and therefore

an excuse to embark on all manner of contract staffing and

casualisation. We have repeatedly asked them to show us the specific

provision(s) in the Nigerian Content Act that allows them to do so,”

he added.

Onuegbu, who is also the Industrial Relations Officer (IRO) of

Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria

(PENGASSAN), said political patronage and interference amongst others

have hampered the fight against casualisation.

He explained that labour contracts are given as political patronage to

politicians and powerful community leaders in the country.

“In order to ensure that more people get these contracts, the

contracts duration are reduced. This further exposes the workers. The

“employers” are not interested in the career of their “employees”.

After all the labour contract is their share of the national cake.

They also rarely meet the minimum standards prescribed for labour

contractors by the Federal Ministry of Labour. Many do not have labour

recruiters licences, are not aware of their responsibilities as

employers and have no capacity to meet these labour standards,” he

stated.

President, Women Arise for Change Initiative and Campaign for

Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, described the casualisation of

workforce as slave trade, noting that Nigerian workers have become

third class citizens in their fatherland.

The issue of casualisation, most especially in the private sector, she

stated, has become a very disturbing phenomenon noting that it is

nothing but a flagrant abuse of the rights of workers and all hands

must be on deck to stop it.

Speaking further, she said the harrowing experience Nigerian workers

go through in the hand of their employers in the name of casualisation

is a clear indication that workers have become third class citizens in

their fatherland.

“I have wondered often time how on earth some people would be so

callous as to take delight in being wicked and ruthless with their

employees. It also baffles me that workers can become third-class

citizens in their own fatherland; we see foreign employers treat

Nigerian workers with disdain, and we see continuous derogation of the

average Nigerian worker through casualisation.

“Part of the pains casual workers have to go through are that they

never benefit from special packages like others; most of the time they

are treated like lepers. They never have the full entitlements on the

job allowances, transportation, leave allowances, medicals etc.

“As I speak, over 2,500 Chinese artisans are engaged on full time

basis at Lafarge WAPCO Cement at Ewekoro; over 5,000 are said to be

working at an ongoing electrification project at Papalanto, with over

3,000 in Sango at Ado-Odo Ota Local Government of Ogun State working

as artisans in different companies; whereas Nigerian workers are

placed on very nasty allowances as casual workers. It is high time we

did something concrete about it,” she said.

Reacting also to the issue of casualisation, President General of the

Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Mr. Peter Esele, strongly

condemned what he described as the continuous and flagrant abuse of

the laws of Nigeria by employers particularly in the area of

expatriate quota abuse.

According to him, the institutionalisation of flexible employment

models globally, as championed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO),

fuelled the enslavement of workers through casualisation and contract

staffing.

These categories of workers, he said, are outrightly denied the right

to unionisation and collective bargaining as entrenched in the

constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other

international labour conventions.

“Workers are denied their inalienable right to unionisation and

collective bargaining in the face of intimidation, harassment and

threat by the employers. We demand that workers should be given the

freedom of choice to unionisation, which should be based on offer of

first refusal by the worker if he decides not to belong,” Esele

stated.

In his opinion, Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership,

Strategy and Development, Dr. Otive Igbuzor, said it was rather

unfortunate that issues of workers right, appropriate strategy and

development approach have not been the major issues of national

discourse, but rather leaders are concentrating on zoning at the

expense of improved welfare for the masses.

He observed that the national and international instruments have been

devised to protect workers’ rights which have been codified in

national laws and international labour conventions and recommendations

of the ILO in addition to constitutional provisions which also confer

on them certain rights as citizens, but added that these instruments

are observed in the breach because employers of labour value their

profits more than the workers.

He maintained that the importance of a dedicated, healthy,

knowledgeable and motivated workforce to the development of any nation

cannot be over-emphasised, adding that the quality of a workforce

affects the productivity and development indices of any country.

Igbuzor, who observed the excessive exploitation of workers in

Nigeria, however, noted that the level of consciousness on the part of

workers has not been developed to the level of taking action. He

affirmed that the role of trade unions has been undermined in recent

years, adding that the responsibility for the protection of worker’s

rights lies with workers.

Govt Efforts to Tackle Precarious Employment

In the last three years, government has taken various steps, among

which was to review the guidelines, conditions and issuance of

licences to outsourcing firms in order to ensure the creation of

decent employment, and adoption of best practices in workplaces.

Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, has continued

to express government determination to ensure that the rights of

Nigerian workers are adequately protected by operators in the

industry.

Wogu reiterated that the creation of decent employment is one of the

basic concerns of the present administration, stressing that the focus

is on creating a conducive working environment with adoption of

international best practices.

“Even though outsourcing is an internationally acceptable practice, it

should not be allowed to result into indecent employment. Some

companies lack the technical and managerial competencies to deliver on

their objectives to the country.

“One of the ills of unfair labour practice, which is of great concern

to the ministry, is casualisation, which has denied workers the right

to freedom of association. Government is putting in place policies and

programmes that will promote good working environment and human life,”

he said.

Though the labour ministry has made effort to comprehensively address

the ever-burgeoning precarious form of employment in the nation’s

economy, it has not been up and doing in effectively monitoring the

activities of private sector employers; particularly those in the

Niger Delta region.

Also, the Federal Government has not done enough in checking the abuse

of expatriate quota, despite several regulations that could be

leveraged to curb the phenomenon, such as: the regulation that

stipulates that before any organisation can “import” workers such

position must be advertised for Nigerians, foreigners can only be

engaged if there are no Nigerians to take up the appointment.

In his opinion, the TUC president said the labour ministry has not met

the expectations of Nigerians in tackling the issue of casualisation

and other forms of exploitation of workers’ rights. According to him,

nothing concrete has come out of several meetings that have been

called to deliberate on the issue.

“The ministry has not been able to tackle effectively the issue of

casualisation because we are still where we are and casualisation has

been on the increase in the banking sector and the oil and gas sector.

Nothing seriously has been done to comprehensively address the issue.

It is still more like a talk,” Esele stated.

Stepping up

Although stakeholders in the labour industry have affirmed that the

challenges are enormous, they contended that surmounting these

challenges will require the collective efforts of every Nigerian.

For instance Onuegbu, while proffering solution to precarious

employment, said: “It requires not just the struggle of the labour

movement but the organised action of the Nigerian people. The trade

unions, the civil society, religious organisations and community based

groups must all come together to fight these challenges.

“Those affected are our brothers and sisters. Besides, there are

several millions of Nigerians workers who are afraid of joining the

unions because of victimisation and fear of dismissal. So the

challenges can only be surmounted by a united action by the Nigerian

people, of course championed by the TUC and the Nigeria Labour

Congress (NLC)”.

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Analysts have described contract staffing and precarious work as major

problems besetting decent work and social justice in the Nigerian work

environment.

It is heart-breaking to note that Nigerians are forced by the

realities of excruciating unemployment to sign any contract of

employment just to have a job. In most cases, the agreements were

never entered on equal terms but were forced down the throat of the

workers by the realities of the country’s labour market.

Though there are efforts by government to boost employment generation

in the country, this has not been followed by assurances of decent

work and worker protection given the increasing number of

contract-based employment in the nation’s economy, experts have

insisted.

It is pertinent to also note that contract and agency labour and

precarious forms of employment have been exploding in the country,

bringing with it two categories of workers: one with good secure jobs

and another category of workers faced with short term jobs, low wages,

no social protection and a loss of rights.

Specifically, the massive shift away from regular employment into

temporary work or jobs through agencies and labour brokers is having a

deep impact on all workers, their families, and on the society.

According to analysts, the erosion of the employee-employer

relationship, often the basis of labour law, is leading directly to a

growing number of violations of workers’ rights.

There is therefore a disconnect in employment and productivity

resulting from policy changes, especially those inspired by the

international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the

International Monetary Fund (IMF), which have in recent years

encouraged work flexibility and brought with it a lowering of work

conditions at both national and international levels.

This is in addition to the global economic and employment crisis that

have continued to threaten the future of workers all over the world

particularly in developing nations like Nigeria.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has emphasised that the

expansion of precarious forms of work and deregulation of the labour

market are not the answer to the employment crisis. Indeed, the

international labour centre had maintained that the insecurity of

working people over recent decades was a significant contributor to

the recession.

Moreso, it has been established that agency hires and temporary

contracts destroy job security and undermine all other rights and

promote gross exploitation of both the temporary worker and the

permanent employee working alongside them.

There are instances where workers employed on an agency type

arrangement with inferior wages and conditions are being used to

reduce and eventually eliminate a permanent workforce of long

standing.

This is what is happening in nearly all sectors of the economy –

manufacturing, construction, banking, telecommunications, oil and gas

where contract staffing and casualisation has become the order of the

day as workers in these sectors no longer have regularised employment

terms.

Good jobs are falling prey to corporate cost-cutting moves at the

expense of working families. Too many jobs are being outsourced,

contracted out, or reclassified under a barrage of legal definitions

designed to keep pay down, benefits low, and the unions out.

Contract Staffing and Precarious Work

Contract staffing and precarious work refers to all forms of

employment that are not permanent in nature. The term contract implies

that the job is not of a permanent nature, while the word ‘precarious’

refers to the relative higher insecurity associated with it.

It is sad to note that permanent jobs are gradually being eroded by an

increasing reliance by employers on labour hire via employment

agencies. This is because employers have come to realise that

dismissing workers with no rights to severance pay or notice periods

is a cheap and easy way for them to reduce their workforces. This

trend has had significant and far reaching impacts on employment;

given the dangers that precarious employment poses for society.

“Some employers in Nigeria argue that the use of outsourcing in some

cases may not necessarily be to cut costs but to help them concentrate

on their core services while contracting out the ancillary services to

labour and service contractors who specialise in these areas.

“This practice also gives them the freedom to ‘hire and fire’ casual

employees at will. However, for the worker the issue is that there are

no better options available to meet her economic needs. Where she is

faced with the choice between casual/contract work and no work at all,

the former will be the choice” (Danesi, 2011, p3).

More worrisome is the fact that most multinational companies operating

in the country bring in expatriates to take full-time employment with

all the benefits that accrue to the job while Nigerians are placed on

contract which is being renewed without benefits. This contravenes

Section 7 (1) of the Labour Act, Cap 198, Laws of the Federation of

Nigeria, 1990.

The Act 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 when the

contract expires.”

Also Section 17 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal

Republic of Nigeria requires that “the sanctity of the human person

shall be recognised and human dignity shall be maintained and

enhanced.”

The ILO, having recognised the dignity of the human person, has come

up with ILO Conventions which are labelled core labour standards based

on human rights especially the respect for the dignity of labour.

These Conventions address workers’ rights internationally in the

following areas: the right to organise and bargain collectively; the

right to be free from slavery or bonded labour; the elimination of

worst form of child labour; the right to be free from discrimination;

and the right not to be unfairly dismissed.

However, findings have shown that employees engaged as contract staff

or in non-standard work arrangement are usually denied the above

rights in many organisations and this phenomenon has continued to

elicit concern among stakeholders.

Factors Hindering Fight against Casualisation

Analysts have blamed this on the current challenges facing industrial

relations practice in the country, and key among these are weak and

unfavourable labour laws, the ease with which government and employers

abandon signed agreements with the labour unions at the slightest

opportunity, the corruption in the judiciary and judgments that create

doubt as to whether the judiciary is still the last hope of the common

man.

Other challenges include the “profit before workers” syndrome, the

global financial crises and the unprecedented rate of unemployment in

Nigeria, increasing use of outsourcing, temporary employment contracts

and other forms of precarious work to undermine trade union rights.

Chairman, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) Rivers State Council,

Mr. Chika Onuegbu, described the current labour laws applied by the

law courts in cases of termination /dismissal from employment as

harsh, unfair and inequitable.

He added that the law does not take due cognisance of the circumstance

of the Nigerian worker and the Nigerian working environment.

“The common law principle of Master and Servant Relationship, which is

applied by the law courts in Nigeria including the National Industrial

Court (NIC) in cases of termination /dismissals from employment in the

so-called employments without statutory flavour (employments in the

private sector and a few public sector employment) is harsh, unfair

and inequitable as it does not take due cognisance of the circumstance

of the Nigerian worker and the Nigerian working environment.

“The principle provides that in all employment governed only by the

agreements of the parties, and not by statute, removal by way of

termination/dismissal will be in the form agreed to, which in most

cases is as contained in the letter of appointment.

“Any other form connotes only wrongful termination or dismissal but

not to declare such dismissal/termination null and void. The only

remedy is a claim for damages for that wrongful dismissal and that

claim is limited to the conditions of service which in most cases are

stated in the letter of appointment.

“The principle even goes further to state that a master is entitled to

dismiss his servant from his employment for good or for bad reasons or

for no reason at all, and that such an action, even if unlawful,

brings to an end the relationship of master and servant, employer and

employee,” he explained.

Speaking further Onuegbu observed that the bargaining power of the

individual worker is of little importance in practice, especially in a

country like Nigeria where the rate of unemployment is unprecedented

and people are forced to sign any document in the name of contract.

This, he stated, accounts for the reason why contract staffing and

outsourcing have become the order of the day in the country.

“Let me also add that there are many Nigerians that work without any

form of signed contract or agreement. They are usually referred to as

casuals. The bad economy has made it such that despite the fact that

casualisation is illegal under the Nigerian labour laws, millions of

Nigerian workers fall under this category. Nigerians are on daily

basis forced by the harsh economic situation to work in the most

debilitating conditions without any form of signed contract or

agreement just to earn a living.

“Also, some companies in the oil and gas industry now claim that the

Nigerian oil and gas industry content Development Act mandate them to

outsource 90 per cent of all jobs in their organisation and therefore

an excuse to embark on all manner of contract staffing and

casualisation. We have repeatedly asked them to show us the specific

provision(s) in the Nigerian Content Act that allows them to do so,”

he added.

Onuegbu, who is also the Industrial Relations Officer (IRO) of

Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria

(PENGASSAN), said political patronage and interference amongst others

have hampered the fight against casualisation.

He explained that labour contracts are given as political patronage to

politicians and powerful community leaders in the country.

“In order to ensure that more people get these contracts, the

contracts duration are reduced. This further exposes the workers. The

“employers” are not interested in the career of their “employees”.

After all the labour contract is their share of the national cake.

They also rarely meet the minimum standards prescribed for labour

contractors by the Federal Ministry of Labour. Many do not have labour

recruiters licences, are not aware of their responsibilities as

employers and have no capacity to meet these labour standards,” he

stated.

President, Women Arise for Change Initiative and Campaign for

Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, described the casualisation of

workforce as slave trade, noting that Nigerian workers have become

third class citizens in their fatherland.

The issue of casualisation, most especially in the private sector, she

stated, has become a very disturbing phenomenon noting that it is

nothing but a flagrant abuse of the rights of workers and all hands

must be on deck to stop it.

Speaking further, she said the harrowing experience Nigerian workers

go through in the hand of their employers in the name of casualisation

is a clear indication that workers have become third class citizens in

their fatherland.

“I have wondered often time how on earth some people would be so

callous as to take delight in being wicked and ruthless with their

employees. It also baffles me that workers can become third-class

citizens in their own fatherland; we see foreign employers treat

Nigerian workers with disdain, and we see continuous derogation of the

average Nigerian worker through casualisation.

“Part of the pains casual workers have to go through are that they

never benefit from special packages like others; most of the time they

are treated like lepers. They never have the full entitlements on the

job allowances, transportation, leave allowances, medicals etc.

“As I speak, over 2,500 Chinese artisans are engaged on full time

basis at Lafarge WAPCO Cement at Ewekoro; over 5,000 are said to be

working at an ongoing electrification project at Papalanto, with over

3,000 in Sango at Ado-Odo Ota Local Government of Ogun State working

as artisans in different companies; whereas Nigerian workers are

placed on very nasty allowances as casual workers. It is high time we

did something concrete about it,” she said.

Reacting also to the issue of casualisation, President General of the

Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Mr. Peter Esele, strongly

condemned what he described as the continuous and flagrant abuse of

the laws of Nigeria by employers particularly in the area of

expatriate quota abuse.

According to him, the institutionalisation of flexible employment

models globally, as championed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO),

fuelled the enslavement of workers through casualisation and contract

staffing.

These categories of workers, he said, are outrightly denied the right

to unionisation and collective bargaining as entrenched in the

constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other

international labour conventions.

“Workers are denied their inalienable right to unionisation and

collective bargaining in the face of intimidation, harassment and

threat by the employers. We demand that workers should be given the

freedom of choice to unionisation, which should be based on offer of

first refusal by the worker if he decides not to belong,” Esele

stated.

In his opinion, Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership,

Strategy and Development, Dr. Otive Igbuzor, said it was rather

unfortunate that issues of workers right, appropriate strategy and

development approach have not been the major issues of national

discourse, but rather leaders are concentrating on zoning at the

expense of improved welfare for the masses.

He observed that the national and international instruments have been

devised to protect workers’ rights which have been codified in

national laws and international labour conventions and recommendations

of the ILO in addition to constitutional provisions which also confer

on them certain rights as citizens, but added that these instruments

are observed in the breach because employers of labour value their

profits more than the workers.

He maintained that the importance of a dedicated, healthy,

knowledgeable and motivated workforce to the development of any nation

cannot be over-emphasised, adding that the quality of a workforce

affects the productivity and development indices of any country.

Igbuzor, who observed the excessive exploitation of workers in

Nigeria, however, noted that the level of consciousness on the part of

workers has not been developed to the level of taking action. He

affirmed that the role of trade unions has been undermined in recent

years, adding that the responsibility for the protection of worker’s

rights lies with workers.

Govt Efforts to Tackle Precarious Employment

In the last three years, government has taken various steps, among

which was to review the guidelines, conditions and issuance of

licences to outsourcing firms in order to ensure the creation of

decent employment, and adoption of best practices in workplaces.

Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, has continued

to express government determination to ensure that the rights of

Nigerian workers are adequately protected by operators in the

industry.

Wogu reiterated that the creation of decent employment is one of the

basic concerns of the present administration, stressing that the focus

is on creating a conducive working environment with adoption of

international best practices.

“Even though outsourcing is an internationally acceptable practice, it

should not be allowed to result into indecent employment. Some

companies lack the technical and managerial competencies to deliver on

their objectives to the country.

“One of the ills of unfair labour practice, which is of great concern

to the ministry, is casualisation, which has denied workers the right

to freedom of association. Government is putting in place policies and

programmes that will promote good working environment and human life,”

he said.

Though the labour ministry has made effort to comprehensively address

the ever-burgeoning precarious form of employment in the nation’s

economy, it has not been up and doing in effectively monitoring the

activities of private sector employers; particularly those in the

Niger Delta region.

Also, the Federal Government has not done enough in checking the abuse

of expatriate quota, despite several regulations that could be

leveraged to curb the phenomenon, such as: the regulation that

stipulates that before any organisation can “import” workers such

position must be advertised for Nigerians, foreigners can only be

engaged if there are no Nigerians to take up the appointment.

In his opinion, the TUC president said the labour ministry has not met

the expectations of Nigerians in tackling the issue of casualisation

and other forms of exploitation of workers’ rights. According to him,

nothing concrete has come out of several meetings that have been

called to deliberate on the issue.

“The ministry has not been able to tackle effectively the issue of

casualisation because we are still where we are and casualisation has

been on the increase in the banking sector and the oil and gas sector.

Nothing seriously has been done to comprehensively address the issue.

It is still more like a talk,” Esele stated.

Stepping up

Although stakeholders in the labour industry have affirmed that the

challenges are enormous, they contended that surmounting these

challenges will require the collective efforts of every Nigerian.

For instance Onuegbu, while proffering solution to precarious

employment, said: “It requires not just the struggle of the labour

movement but the organised action of the Nigerian people. The trade

unions, the civil society, religious organisations and community based

groups must all come together to fight these challenges.

“Those affected are our brothers and sisters. Besides, there are

several millions of Nigerians workers who are afraid of joining the

unions because of victimisation and fear of dismissal. So the

challenges can only be surmounted by a united action by the Nigerian

people, of course championed by the TUC and the Nigeria Labour

Congress (NLC)”.

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