9TH JUNE, 2021
PRECARIOUS WORKING CONDITIONS AND GROSS DISREGARD FOR LAWS AND INSTITUTIONS OF NIGERIA BY EMPLOYERS IN TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND COMMUNICATIONS SECTOR: A DECLARATION OF 3-DAY WARNING STRIKE EFFECTIVE WEDNESDAY 16TH JUNE, 2021
This is announcing to the world that our Union shall be embarking on a 3-day warning strike in the telecommunications and communications sector in Nigeria starting from 12 Midnight on Wednesday 16th June, 2021. This decision was taken at the emergency National Administrative Council (NAC) meeting held on 7th June, 2021 and further sanctioned by National Executive Council (NEC) at its meeting of the Union held on 8th June, 2021. In line with the directives of both the NAC and the NEC the Union has perfected plans to mobilise workers in the industry to embark on the strike accordingly.
This strike has become inevitable because of growing precarious working conditions in the sector and gross disregard for our laws and its institutions. This is the 21st Century, workers in the sector are still being treated like slaves even though slavery has long been abolished all over the world.
We have made series of efforts in the past, including but not limited to escalating the issues to the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy and the House Committee on Communications, yet, these employers believe they are bigger than the nation and would not respect our institutions.
Some of the anti-labour practices in the sector are as follows:
- BREACH OF FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION AND RIGHT TO ORGANISE
Unionization of workers in the sector, most especially among the vendors, seems to be a taboo as they ensure the workers are barred from freely joining the Union as against every known Conventions of ILO, Nigeria’s Constitution, and the Trade Unions Act.
We have instances whereby employees that indicated interests in joining the Union were sacked. Huawei Technologies Nigeria Limited is notorious for sacking any employee who shows interest in joining the Union. In recent time, where Ministry of Labour intervened the Deputy Managing Director assured reinstatement of the sacked members of the Union. Several weeks after, the sacked employees are yet to be reinstated.
ATC is another company that has resisted Unionization of its employees despite interventions of Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Lagos. In the presence of the officers in the Ministry one of the lawyers that came with the employers asserted that never would the Union ever be allowed to organize the workers.
- VICTIMISATION OF UNION MEMBERS
In some companies where the Union was able to organize the workers the employers have embraced culture of victimizing union members in order to dissuade them from membership of the Union.
NOKIA is a good example of a company doing everything possible to rid the company of the Union. This it does by rewarding non-Union members for choosing not to belong to the Union. This can be seen in its decision to monetise excess leave days and add same to the salary of Non-Union members while Union members were to be left empty handed. Meanwhile, every negotiated benefit of the Union for its members are extended to those that chose not to be members of the Union.
- POOR AND DISCRIMINATORY REMUNERATION
There seems not to be any company within the sector that is not culpable on this issue which is against Equal Remuneration Convention (100). There are examples of workers earning, even, more than their superiors. This act is carefully shielded by Confidentiality Policy adopted by these employers.
- INCREASING SPATE OF PRECARIOUS WORK
Casualization of work has become the order of the day in telecoms sector. This is prevalent among field engineers and technicians. Many are given monthly contract of employment, while many others tri-monthly up to 6 months and others yearly contract. For any of these contract terms renewals are not made as at when due.
We experience multiple layers of employers now in the sector such that to differentiate among them is a difficult task. For example, Huawei Technologies alone uses more than twenty-five pseudo companies in its operations in Nigeria alone.
- 24 HOURS WORK
This is peculiar to vendors in the sector. Their field engineers have 24 hours as their work hours. They are called upon to work, even, at wee hours of the night despite high spate of insecurity in the country. Several of them have been attacked and injured without their employers bearing the cost of treatment. Notwithstanding, risks involved in attending to work at nights employers in the sector have yet to made provision for security of these workers. This is most common to Huawei operations in Nigeria.
- ABSENCE OF EXIT PACKAGE
Majority of the employers do not pay severance benefits to their employees when they are leaving the employments irrespective of the number of years spent.
- NO HAZARD ALLOWANCE
Workers in the sector, especially the field engineers, are exposed to series of work hazards, like long time exposure to dangerous levels of Microwave, which have negative impacts on their health. Employers must as a matter of urgency commence payment of hazard allowance to the concerned workers in the sector.
- DISREGARD FOR OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
Safety equipment are often not made available to workers on the field. This exposes them more to different forms of hazard at work. Working at nights have exposed lots of them to series of attacks, as earlier mentioned, including kidnapping.
- RESTRICTIVE CAREER PATH
Several of the companies in the sector have no structures in place to ensure steady growth of employees in their organisations. Employees that are diligent spend several numbers of years on the same positions without deserved and due promotion.
- EXPATRIATES QUOTA POLICY INFRACTIONS
Expatriates quota policy in the country allows companies to employ expatriates to work in the country ONLY when the skills needed for the projects are lacking among Nigerians and when the expatriates are brought in each of them are expected to be attached four Nigerian employees to understudy them for the purpose of transferring the knowledge unto the attached locals. In many of the companies, including the ones owned by Nigerians, there are numerous foreigners working in the country that have no Nigerian understudying them. The peak of this breach is seen in NOKIA where Nigerians are sacked, and they are replaced by foreigners.
- UNJUST SEVERANCE OF UNION EXECUTIVES
Employers want to make it fashionable to be getting rid of Union executives under feeble and cooked up reasons to weaken the Union and, ultimately, destroy the Union in their companies. We have seen this panned out in HUAWEI, NOKIA and ZTE and we say enough is enough. We shall no longer allow that to happen ever again. Those that have been sacked must be recalled forthwith.
- GROSS DISREGARD FOR THE LAWS AND INSTITUTIONS OF GOVERNMENT IN NIGERIA
Our Labour laws are being flagrantly flouted by companies in the sector, just the same way they are disregarding the institutions of government in the country. Probationary period in our law is three months in the first instance and another 3 months in second and the last when an employee on probation is unable to meet up with expectations on the new job. Several employers place on probation workers for longer period of months spanning more than 12months.
Also, Ministry of Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, the supervising Ministry in charge of labour and employment has been reduced to nothing as employers disregard its verdicts at conciliation and carry out what please them.
A good example is the case of NOKIA whose reason for placing an executive member of the Union on redundancy was faulted and ordered to withdraw the redundancy placed on him. Rather than abide by the verdict or better still appeal same it went ahead to sever the employment of the Union officer. Also, NOKIA was directed to pay its former Alcatel Lucent staff off, their merger and acquisition benefits because of their transfer to NOKIA. The same way the company called the bluff of the Ministry of Labour and Employment on the issue of the Union officer so it chose to call the bluff of the Ministry on the payment.
In the light of the above issues and others not captured our Union demands as follows:
- That HUAWEI Technologies Nigeria Limited, ATC, 9Mobile, Globacom, Smile, IHS, AIRTEL, IPNX Nigeria, SPECTRANET, MAINONE, ntel, Swift and others whose employees have not yet been Unionised should respect the right of the workers to freely associate with the Union. A communication duly signed by an authorized management staff from all these companies should be sent to the workers with assurances that they would not be victimized, harassed or even sacked as a result of their membership of the Union.
- Immediate recall of the severed officer in NOKIA and other workers sacked in Huawei Technologies Nigeria Limited.
- Immediate withdrawal of warning letters and threats issued to the leaders of the workers in Huawei Technologies.
- Immediate commencement of discussion and negotiation of Procedural Agreement and Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Union for the workers in Huawei Technologies and other companies in the sector.
- Immediate regularization of employment of all the casual workers in the sector. We outrightly reject casualization of workers in the sector under any form of guise be it sub-contracting or outsourcing.
- A stop to continued abuse of expatriate quota policy in the Sector.
- Immediate provision of PPE for the field engineers and ensuring occupational health and safety measures are put in place for the generality of workers in the sector.
- That all the companies in the sectors stop forthwith arbitrary sack of workers in the sector. Telecoms sector is the only sector that is immune to Covid-19 fall outs, hence, we do not see any reason for workers to be losing their jobs.
- That the multi-nationals in the sector abide with our laws and institutions else, they should leave this country or face dire consequences of their breach.
- That all employers in the sector remedy the issues raised above
If our demands are not met on or before Monday 15th June, 2021 we shall be going ahead with the initial 3-day warning industrial action.
We seize this opportunity to call on all workers in the sector to co-operate with us as we commence the move towards sanitizing our beloved sector. We assure them that it shall no longer be business as usual in the sector.
To Nigerians, we would like to let them know that we regret the unfortunate consequences that our impending but inevitable action will cause them. We plead for understanding and urge them to bear with us.
Com. Opeyemi Tomori Com. Okonu Abdullahi
PTECSSAN President PTECSSAN General Secretary