A termination notice (Ref. NoR/82 UEL) dated May 18th, 1983, and to take effect from 1st June 1983, was served to retrench 5000 workers of the United Enamelware factory in Ilorin. The reason is that “since 100% of the raw materials we use are imported goods, and since such goods have ceased from coming in, we are( therefore) forced to lay off our workers”.
It will be recalled that sometime in 1982, the Kwara Commercial Metals and Commercial Industries(the other section of the same company)had retrenched more than 170 workers. Our correspondent, who carried out an investigation about this factory discovered very many atrocities committed against the workers of the company.
In the first place, the length of time workers worked, was from 7 o’clock in the morning to seven in the night(12 hours!). As a result of the recent developments, this has temporarily gone down to nine hours, from 8 am to 5 pm. The workers are still to be paid the National Minimum wage of N125.00 per month. We discovered that skilled workers (such as an electrician)earned #110 per month. This was after there had been an upward revision in their salaries!
– This revision, was as follows:
Sept.25 1980 – N3.30 per day
No v. 25 1980. -N3.50 per day
Feb.16:1981. – N4.00 per day
May 15 1981. -N4. 80 per day
Sept. 1 1981. -N5.00
This, as we mentioned represents the salary of a skilled worker.It was also discovered that workers in both United Enamelware (only 4 workers now remain here) and the Commercial Metal and Chemical companies were and are still paid only N10 each for both housing and transport allowances.
The workers and their interests are supposed to be represented by the Iron and Steel Workers Union of Nigeria. This, however, is not the case. What obtains is that officials of the National Headquarters of the union pay monthly or bi-monthly visits to the factory, in order to collect the check-off dues, then quietly return to their comfortable lives in Lagos.
It Is likely that there is a sort of agreement between the leadership of the union and the managemont of the company, which allows the union leadership to collect dues, while ensuring that the “boat is not rocked”. This seems to be the belief of many of the workers-and if one judges by the behaviour of the union leadership during the last Ajaoküta Steelworkers’ strike, then it could be true.
Similarly, we found out who the members of the board of directors of the company are. These are:
- Alhaji (Chief) S.Owolewa-Chairman
- Shehu Owolewa -Managing
- A. Abegunde-Permanent secretary in the governor’s office,
- Ade Fabiyi-Also of Everymans Insurance Brokers.
The situation was so bad that not even a word of protest, or expression of solidarity with the workers by the Kwara State Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress. These retrenchments, and many more, expose the inability of the NLC, to take up the fight of vigorously protecting the interests of Nigerian workers.
Ever since the launching of the F.A.R. and N.O.W. campaign (Fight Against Retrenchments and Non-payment of Wages), in Sept. 1982, we have not heard of any single action being taken by our trade union leaders to ensure that something positively is done to ensure an organised movement against unemployment.
As a matter of fact, many trade union leaders are crying out loud about retrenchments today, not because of a willingness to fight it, but because the source of the money they have been squandering is drying up.
If the leadership of the trade union movement is not willing (and certainly it has not shown the capability and enthusiasm) to fight, then workers have to BEGIN to form OUR OWN organisations to FIGHT for us. Afterall, the liberation of the working class will be the act of workers- and nobody else’s.