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18 July 2018
For three days starting from Monday July 9, 2018, the offices of the MTN, the biggest telecommunication company in Nigeria, nationwide were picketed by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over non-unionisation and casualization of workers. In Lagos members of Democratic Socialist Movement and Joint Action Front (JAF) joined the action in solidarity with the NLC and workers.
Members of different affiliates of the NLC like the National Union of Postal and Telecommunication Employees (NUPTE), National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Nigerian Construction Workers Unions etc. were also at the picket line.
On July 9, before the resumption hour of 8:00am, the MTN Plaza in Falomo Ikoyi Lagos had been occupied by over one hundred workers and activists who were armed with placards and banners inscribed with messages on the attacks on democratic and labour rights of MTN workers, as well as failures of the government to enforce labour laws.
According to reports, more than 85 percent of the workforce in MTN are all casuals, otherwise called contract staffs. It was also said that in every three (3) months of employment, the company sacks workers and asks them to re-apply. This has been the business model of MTN since it began operation in Nigeria in 2001 in order to sustain its super profit at the expense of workers. Through this, MTN has continue to massively maintain the casualization of workers to increase the ratio of their profit.
While addressing workers and media at the picketing line Ayuba Waba, NLC President, described MTN as one of the worst employers of labour in Nigeria. This is because the company has refused to allow workers to form a union, denied workers right of collective bargaining and institutionalized a culture of victimization of workers.
The National Union of Postal and Telecommunication Employer (NUPTE) had made effort to discuss with the MTN management issues of union and conditions but to no avail. This, according to Ayuba, forced the NLC to embark on this picketing.
Other labour leaders such as Peter Ozo-Eson (General Secretary, NLC), Adeyanju (MWUN, Apapa), Ibrahim Kalil (NULGE), as well as Abiodun Aremu (JAF) also addressed the protesters.
The picketing continued till Wednesday July 11, this time at Berger/Kirikiri, Apapa Lagos, where another MTN office is situated.
While we of the DSM welcome this action, we call on the NLC not to make it a one-off action but rather a sustained campaign against casualization which is a scourge of poor workers in Nigeria. Workers in many sweatshops across the country with poor pay, poor conditions, denial of union rights, etc. have been left hung out to dry by both labour leaders and government. We call on the NLC and other labour centres, TUC and ULC, to combine forces to fight for the rights of workers to living wage and decent conditions. This means that struggle for a higher minimum wage, which has been held in abeyance, must be waged side by side with a campaign against casualization and precarious works.
Fourteen copies of the Socialist Democracy (SD) and 7 copies of DSM new pamphlet on Nigeria were sold on the picket lines.