Slave wage, casualisation pit Nigerite workers against management

13 December 2010
•Loses N750m to workers’ protest

Protest by workers of Nigerite Nigeria Limited, a leading manufacturer and supplier of quality building materials in Nigeria has led to the loss of more than N750 million.

The workers, acting under the aegis of the National Union of Chemical Footwear Rubber Leather and Non-Metalic Products Employees (NUCFLRANMPE), last week in Lagos shut the gates of the firm, demanding for better deal from management..

According to sources close to the company, it is among the richest companies in Nigeria having about seven machines producing materials worth well over N500 million a day, adding that for shutting down production line for two days translated to huge losses to the firm.

The source also confirmed that losses will arise from none use of some materials are supposed to have used which must have become damaged.

The protest which resulted in the hostage taking of their Managing Director Mr L.U. Viatour, the General Manager, human resources, Mr Ade Adekeye and other members of the senior staff started at 10:00am and ended at 9:00pm. Adekeye was almost lynched when at about 3:48pm, despite the heat generated by the protest went to the canteen to eat. No staff was allowed into the canteen as the workers too did not go for their meals. In fact, no customer was allowed into the premises

When the Nigerian Compass got to the company on Wednesday, placards carrying, “MD must go”, GM, HR, must go” were freely displayed at different places in the company’s premises. Also, workers, especially the junior staff, all appeared determined to demand for what they termed their” rights “from the management of Nigerite Nigeria Limited, as “Solidarity forever, solidarity forever, solidarity forever, we shall always fight for our right,” rented the air.

Earlier, Nigerian Compass spoke with the chairman NUCAMPE, Nigerite Branch, Comrade Oluwafemi Samson, who explained that, the union had, at one time or the other had misunderstanding with the management in the past but there had never been one as serious as the present one, saying they have always settled their grievances amicably.

“No protest has gone to this stage, in fact, Adekeye must go, and this is an extortionist style which this union must fight to a logical end today.

“The management has taken us for granted too much. The other day we sought their audience instead of listening to us, he felt there is nothing we could do and the man is being encouraged by our own black man. Nigerite workers had never had this kind of experience,” he lamented.

Oluwafemi said what they demanded from the management was fair treatment and a departure from the company’s extortionist policy, but instead of them (company) responding to their demands having written two different letter in that regards, the MD has responded by saying he was ready to sack workers.

When Adekeye came to address the workers, he appealed for calm and understanding.”In the interest of peace, I have come to address you and to apologise on behalf of the MD and the entire management team that we should go back to work. It was a misunderstanding that the MD said he would sack the workers. The MD is not willing to sack anyone,” he said.

When asked whether the union has intimated the management before going on to protest, Oluwafemi said the union only made three demands well stated in the letter dated, 30th November, 2010 and signed by himself and Comrade Ayinla S.A., the branch secretary.

The first demand was that a one-hour break be observed by all workers in the factory, irrespective of the duty as it is observed in the administrative block from 6th December 2010. normal 3-shift system should be adhered to strictly from Monday-Friday on any machine line that is on this shift system from 6th of December and the third demand was the company was asked to SM4 machine should revert to 3-shift as being practiced before.

The first letter titled, “Maxinum Manpower Productivity Utilisation” reads in part: “Globally the maximun manpower utilisation to enhance the optimal production output has always been the concerns of many captains of industries…, the union, on behalf of the entire workers as partners in progress wish to remind the management of the need to embark on the second phase of re-organisation using which is salary restructuring for all workers with added responsibility as a result of this exercise. “

Recounting their ordeal, some workers at the company said, “We are walking corpses. This is another slave trade. Some of us died here during work, they went on mass retrenchment in September this year and recruited some people again in October making them casual workers. A lot of us have been working for the past six years and we are still casual collecting about N18,00 which they are now removing taxes from as we speak,” saying they work with carcinogenic materials which are capable of infecting one with cancer.

The workers said they are also demanding for their December bonuses, accusing Ade, as the man behind their woes. Effort to get in touch with Ade was not successful as he and the MD had to leave the company’s premises at 9:45pm after lots of plea amid songs.

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