22 December 2018
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Appeal for Solidarity with A&P Foods/pladis Global workers who are under attack from both management AND the national leaders of the Food Union
The workers of A&P Foods/pladis Global have embarked on strike action since Wednesday December 19, 2018 when the leadership of the National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), led by Mr. Lateef Oyelekan (President), on the order of management, suspended indefinitely the branch union Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and Treasurer while five others EXCO members were given final warnings.
- On Monday November 26, 2018, workers turned their clothes inside-out in reaction to the dwindling working conditions for few minutes and this act did not disrupt production in any way.
A&P Foods, a subsidiary of the former United Biscuits, is now part of pladis, a global multi-national biscuit and confectionery company selling goods worth over $5 billion annually which is owned by Turkish based Yildiz Holding.
- After the said protest, top management staff reported workers action in an official visit to the national secretariat of the National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUBTE) on the same day.
- Unfortunately, the National Secretariat issued queries to the eight branch union leaders and they replied their queries.
- On Tuesday December 18, 2018, the union national leaders suspended Comrade Rasheed Onabanjo (Chairperson), Comrade Jude Okogbe (Vice Chairperson) and Comrade Abiodun Olufemi (Treasurer) indefinitely from the union while "final last warning" letters were issued to Comrade Stella Ovie Adube (Secretary), Comrade Emmanuel Amos (Assistant Secretary), Comrade Uchechukwu Okere (Financial Secretary), Comrade Ola Olu Fadare (Ex-Officio 1) and Comrade Sikiru Ishola (Ex-Officio 2). Workers reacted by embarking on strike action on Wednesday December 19, 2018 because they know that the union top bureaucracy wanted to behead the branch union leaving the workers vulnerable to management attacks.
- Management has constantly attacked the working conditions of workers. For instance, the end-of-the-year bonus has been reduced from 250% of basic salary to 100%; 10 cartoons of biscuit bonus have been reduced to 2 cartoons amongst other issues.
- Mrs. Abiola Olubiyi, the HR Director has been highhanded in her approach and relationship towards workers.
- In 2018 alone, over 250 workers were sacked by the management while over 1,000 workers are casuals and some of them have been on this status for eight years, which is a violation of Section 7 of the Labour Act.
- For the fact that the union national leaders refused to accede to workers' demand, on Friday December 21, 2018, the workers embarked on a peaceful protest to the national secretariat of NUFBTE. At the instance of workers, they were led there by Comrade Chinedu Bosah, Publicity Secretary of the Campaign for the Democratic and Workers' Rights (CDWR), who also doubles as the National Secretary of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN). Chinedu and CDWR have been helping organise the workers since the strike broke out.
- At the gate of union national secretariat, the union leaders refused to come down to address workers, an act that angered the workers and provoked an agitation. One policeman who is the security guard to Mr. Lateef Oyelekan shot live ammunition and teargas. After Comrade Chinedu Bosah calmed the workers, the Acting General Secretary, Mr. Busari led some leaders of the union to address workers and apologized to workers.
- On the appeal of Mr. Busari, workers elected six workers and requested that Comrade Chinedu Bosah should lead them to have meeting with the union leaders for a possible resolution. On getting to the meeting, Mr. Lateef Oyelekan, the NUFBTE President became authoritarian, invited the Divisional Police Officer of Shasha Police Station to join the meeting as a way of intimidating the workers and was abusing workers for organizing the strike. On the orders of Mr. Lateef Oyelekan, Comrade Chinedu Bosah was bundled out of the meeting, harassed and physically assaulted by a private security/thug and 4 other national leaders of the union. In the process he sustained bruise on his left ankle. Not done, he was detained for 75 minutes by armed policemen inside the Union Secretariat in order to prevent him from going out to report his treatment to the workers. Despite this attack, he remained undaunted and refused to be intimidated. The NUFBTE leaders were not comfortable that CDWR was critical of their pro-management activities. The CDWR had earlier in the day submitted a letter to the union.
- On hearing of this development, workers became angry and resolved to continue the strike action into the new year. The national leadership of the union has refused to withdraw the suspension letters, which is one of the key demands of workers.
NUFBTE leaders' record of supporting managements
It is obvious that the national leaders of NUFBTE have taken side with management and workers know that if the branch leaders are intimidated, the management will be emboldened to carry out more attacks.
Since 2005, CDWR has intervened in several companies (Flour Mills, Dangote Pasta, A&P Foods etc.) unionized under the NUFBTE and the top union bureaucrats have always sided with management against workers. Now the NUFBTE leaders are doing everything to break the A&P workers' current strike including with the use of armed police, something which the workers experienced at the Union Secretariat.
We call on activists, workers and the general public to intervene by putting pressure on the union leadership, demanding the reversal of the suspension slammed on the branch leaders, an end to intimidation of workers and activists and a stop to their using the union as an enforcement agency of management. You can send text messages or call Mr. Lateef Oyelekan, the President of the Food Union on the following numbers 08033297595; 08075441491.
Comrade Victor Osakwe
Campaign for Democratic and Workers' Rights (CDWR)