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Addressing Challenges Of Casual Employment In Nigeria

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Funke Alabi has been
working in a bank as a contract employee for the past four years and she is now getting apprehensive about what the future holds for her. She does not know if her contract with the bank will be renewed or not and even if the contract is renewed, her salary will not be better than what it is now in any case.
Alabi has struggled endlessly to ensure that her employer converts her employment to a permanent one but her aspiration seems to be a mirage. To make matters worse, the bank often threatens its entire contract staff with termination of appointment at any given opportunity.
Alabi and her colleagues are quite eager to secure good jobs with better conditions elsewhere but since such jobs are not within their reach, they are compelled to make do with their current occupation, although the working conditions are unpalatable.
The unemployment situation in Nigeria is quite grim, as millions of graduates roam the streets every year without the hope of getting jobs, whether in the public or private sector.
After many years of joblessness, the hapless jobseekers would gladly accept with gratitude any kind of job that comes their way.
The dream of an average undergraduate is to come out of school and secure a very good job. But the dearth of employment, coupled with frustration, has compelled many graduates of tertiary institutions to take up jobs which are sometimes demeaning.
Many companies and organisations take undue advantage of the unemployment situation to keep people working under unpalatable conditions. This has given rise to casualisation of labour or contract employment, thereby compelling people to work without receiving wages that are commensurate to the work done and any entitlements whatsoever.
The disparity between the wages of casual and permanent workers is so wide, and casual workers are often treated like second-class citizens. Casual workers are not entitled to pension, housing fund, national health insurance scheme, bonuses or profit sharing, while their salaries are often slashed arbitrarily.
Banks, hotels, construction companies, telecoms firms, oil companies, foreign companies and manufacturing companies are the major establishments which engage in recruiting contract staff.
Some casual employees with solid qualifications, which could be better than those of the permanent staff, are made to operate as subordinates, even while working extra hours for lesser pay.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines casuals as “workers who have an explicit or implicit contract of employment which is not expected to continue for more than a short period, whose duration is to be determined by circumstances.
“These workers may be classified as being employees or own-account workers, according to the specific circumstances of the employment contract.’’
Tinuke Fapohunda, in her paper on “Employment Casualisation and Degradation of Work in Nigeria’’ published in International Journal of Business and Social Science, said that casualisation was gradually becoming a problem in employment patterns across the world.
She noted that in Nigeria, casualisation of employment had been gaining ground in an unprecedented proportion, intensity and scale. “The trend has been largely attributed to the increasing desperation of employers to cut down organisational costs; as casualisation of employment is seen as an appropriate strategy for cost reduction.
“Casual workers occupy precarious positions in the workplace and society; they are effectively a new set of ‘slaves’ and ‘underclass’ in the modern capitalist economy,’’ Fapohunda added.
However, contract employment and casualisation of labour contravene Section 7 (1) of the Labour Act, Cap 198, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990. The law provides that “not later than three months after the beginning of a worker’s period of employment with an employer, the employer shall give the worker a written statement, specifying the terms and conditions of employment.’’
The conditions “include the nature of the employment and if the contract is for a fixed term, the date when the contract expires.”
Describing contract employment and casualisation of labour issue as worrisome, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) says it has kicked against the practice repeatedly but with little progress.
Mr Nasir Kabir, NLC’s organiser on anti-casualisation, said that banks often employ casual workers because of the obvious desperation of young people who were in dire need of a means of livelihood.
“For the construction companies, they complain that government no longer gives them funds to execute their projects; so, their workers cannot be sustained with the little funds they have.
“If the government looks into this issue and gives the construction firms enough funds to execute projects; they will be able to employ more persons and they will also be able to retain their workers,’’ he added.
Nevertheless, Kabir said that whenever the NLC received a complaint regarding casual employment, it immediately swung into action, adding that the NLC had picketed some companies, while others were shut down until the right thing was done.
“We raised this issue before the congress during our meeting and it was agreed that if we discover workplaces that are casualising their workers; we give them an ultimatum of two weeks to desist from that practice. “After that, we take the next line of action, which is picketing the place and that is what we have been doing,’’ he added.
Kabir, nonetheless, alleged that many union executives were colluding with employers of labour, adding that such connivance had been frustrating the NLC’s efforts to tackle the menace of workers’ casualisation decisively.
“The NLC is a body controlling affiliates and the bankers’ union is affiliated to the NLC but the major problem we are having is that the union’s officials are conniving with the executive directors and chiefs of those banks.
“When we move for a motion, some of them will agree but when we start hitting the banks, they will later turn back and sign a letter of undertaking; submitting themselves to the banks,’’ he said.
Nevertheless, Kabir blamed the country’s judicial system for the delay of cases brought before the courts, saying that the defaulting organisations usually hid behind court cases. “We have about three cases before the National Industrial Court on this issue but up till now, we have not been cleared by the court.
“Some of them (employers) rush to the court, believing the court is a hiding place for them and as a result, workers’ casualisation is still taking place. “There is no law supporting workers’ casualisation and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) has assured us that any court delaying in any case of casualisation will be dealt with,’’ he said.
Kabir, however, advised jobseekers to be very vigilant when taking up appointments, so that they could refuse demeaning job offers.
“Of course, there is unemployment in the country but jobseekers don’t have to rubbish themselves by accepting casual employment. “If people reject casual job offers, the organisation will treat their staff better and respect them instead of employing more.
“It’s not fair for a graduate to be paid peanuts while the records say he or she is earning more; we kick against this and we will continue to do so,’’ he said.
All the same, the House of Representatives has been striving to stop casualisation of labour and contract employment in the country via a bill sponsored by Rep. Emmanuel Jime
The bill, which has been passed for a second reading, is an amendment of the Labour Act of 2004 and it seeks to limit the casual or temporary status of employees to two years.
The bill also seeks to compel employers to convert casual staff in their organisations to permanent staff after working as temporary staff for two years.
Jime, the bill’s sponsor, argued that the practice had created discrimination in the workplace, as casual workers were often perceived as “inferior’’ workers.
He also noted that the discrimination had negatively affected the economic wellbeing of the casual workers. “It means we have two categories of workers — the permanent ones and the casual ones — in the same workplace. This division is unacceptable and unhealthy for the country’s economic growth.
“But this amendment has opened up the protection of the Nigerian workers by way of a legal backing,’’ the lawmaker added.
Observers hope that Nigerian workers will soon breathe a sigh of relief as soon as the amended law comes into effect.

 
Folasade Folarin

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Crude Hits Seven-Year High On Recovery Hope … Equity Rally Runs Out

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Crude oil hit a more than seven-year high yesterday on optimism that the global recovery will ramp up demand.
However, concerns about the end of long-running central bank support and rising Treasury yields saw most equity markets reverse early gains.
After an almost uninterrupted rally from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, world markets are showing signs of levelling out as global finance chiefs shift from economy-boosting largesse to measures aimed at reining in inflation.
Still, there is an expectation that equities will enjoy further gains this year as countries reopen and people grow more confident about travel, especially as studies suggest the more prevalent Omicron coronavirus variant appears to be milder and as vaccines are rolled out.
Analysts are also watching the corporate earnings season that is underway, with hopes that firms can match their stellar performances last year.
But while Asian markets started the day brightly after Monday’s travails, traders returned to selling, with US Treasury yields surging on expectations the Federal Reserve will have to unveil several interest rate hikes to tackle a worrying spike in inflation. Wall Street was closed Monday.
Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Mumbai, Bangkok and Jakarta all fell.
There were gains in Shanghai in hopes of fresh economy-boosting measures, while Wellington and Manila also edged up.
London, Paris and Frankfurt all fell at the open.
But oil built on its early promise, with Brent climbing to $88.13 a barrel and WTI hitting $85.74, both levels not seen since October 2014.
The gains came thanks to demand optimism as the world reopens and concerns about Omicron ease. The loosening of travel restrictions in several countries has seen jet fuel costs soar.
Hopes for more monetary easing by major consumer, China, to reinforce its stuttering economy were also seen as key support for the oil market.

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NPA, MWUN, Others Synergise On Labour

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President General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, has reaffirmed commitment to ensuring smooth working relationship with  management, Tin Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC) of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) on labour related issues.
Adeyanju, who made the commitment during a working visit to the Port Manager, TCIPC, Mr. Buba Jubril, in Lagos, noted that the union will continue to promote industrial peace and harmony in the  operational activities at seaports.
Noting that synergy among all the maritime stakeholders was key for port efficiency, he hinted that the union has changed the narrative from being tagged as hooligans to a more responsible and civil Institution in the maritime industry.
Earlier, the Port Manager, TCIPC, Buba Jubril, thanked the  PG of MWUN for the systematic approach on labour related issues at the port level
Disclosing that the PG has been instrumental to the existing peace in port operations, Jubril assured on the existing synergy the port authority and all the unions.
Jubril further said that “ Myself and the President General MWUN has come a long in the industry.
“I have known him (PG) for over 33years and that will tell you that he is my friend and friend to management of the Nigeria port authority”, he said.

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Osinbajo Wants More Stakeholders’ Involvement In Blue Economy … Inaugurates Committee

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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has sought for wider participation of relevant stakeholders in the blue economy project to deepen participation and benefits of Nigerians from the country’s marine resources.
Making the call at the  inaugural meeting of an Expanded Committee on Sustainable Blue Economy in Nigeria at the Presidential Villa yesterday, the Vice President said “a viable blue economy project will offer vista of opportunities not only for littoral states where there are bodies of waters, but for the entire country”.
He identified areas to be exploited to include ports, terminals, fishing, training, environment, tourism, power,oil and gas.
While identifying possible challenges of sustainability, the VP urged all the ministries, departments and agencies to strengthen their collaborations in an atmosphere of inter ministerial working groups and advised all members to attend the meetings faithfully for maximum results.
Osinbajo , who formally inaugurated the expanded committee, identified the need for a legal framework that will be more robust than other international maritime conventions on blue economy, which Nigeria has been signatory to.
He said the scope and participation of the committee will be further improved upon to accommodate more members from government agencies and relevant private sector stakeholders
“There is no doubt that the blue economy is a new frontier for economic development and a means of diversifying the economy through the use of resources from oceans, seas, rivers and lakes for the well being of the people.
“It also provides positive contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) 2052 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy (2052AIM) and the UN 2030 agenda
“This concept for economic diversification is promoted by the international community and provides friendly means of livelihood in line with this administration’s agenda on job creation’, he said.
He continued that “the ocean economy as an emerging economic frontier applies to ocean-based industry activities and the assets, goods and services of marine ecosystems.
“Countries have to define the scope of their blue economy based on their priorities. For example, in Bangladesh, the ocean economy consists of the following broad and growing economic sectors; living resources, minerals, energy, transport, trade, tourism and recreation, carbon sequestration and coastal protection.
“These industries and ecosystem services do not develop in isolation, but rather interact as an economic ecosystem”, the VP said.
Earlier in his remark,Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi said the blue economy is capable of improving government revenue, create employments and grow the gross domestic product of Nigeria.
Amaechi, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr Magdalene Ajani, also expressed optimism in the benefits derivable from a well exploited marine environment
Speaking at the event,  Dr. Paul Adalikwu, Secretary General of Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA) lauded the initiative of the expansion while recommending inclusion of financial institutions such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and African Development Bank (AfDB), as well as key financial institutions that will contribute meaningfully to realizing Nigeria’s Blue Economy objective.
In addition to  maritime agencies such as the Nigeria Ports Authority, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, and Maritime Academy of Nigeria, the expanded committee also include ten state governors.
They the Governors of Rivers, Lagos, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Borno, Ogun, Ondo, Cross River, Bayelsa and Edo States.
Other members are Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Power, Finance, Environment, Trade and Investment, Agriculture and Water Resources , Chief of Naval Staff, Comptroller General of Customs, Lake Chad Basin Commission, Nigeria Economic Summit Group, etc.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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