Workers in the chemical sector of the nations economy are protesting against the lock out and threat of mass retrenchment by the management of NYCIL chemical company in Sango Ota, Ogun State, an action considered anti labour and against the constitution of Nigeria at this critical period of COVID-19 pandemic. The workers who called off their protest on Monday due to the intervention of the President of the National Union of Chemical Footwear Rubber Leather and Non Metallic Products Employees (NUCFRLANMPE), Mr. Goke Olatunji, have resumed the protests as early as 6a.m Tuesday and vowed that they would ensure there would be no discussion until the management opened the gate of the company.
The two unions in the sector, NUCFRLANMPE and the Chemical and Non Metallic Products Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (CANMPSSAN) are teeming up to ensure that other subsidiaries of the company across Nigeria are shut down in solidarity with the workers’action.
The management on Monday and Tuesday in an attempt to carry out its mass retrenchment which it said was due to the effect of COVID-19 locked all its gates against the workers who had arrived at the workplace. The workers who were taken aback by the management’s decision had commenced a peaceful protest and vowed to continue to resist the action until the management open the gate for discussion. The NUCFRLANMPE President, Comrade Goke Olatunji said the company’s action was in violation of the recent agreement signed between the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), the employers body and the Organised Labour represented by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) with the support of the Federal Government and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
“There’s an understanding that no employers must embark on retrenchment due to COVID-19 as it is a global phenomenon and no worker should be made a sacrificial lamb, but rather the unions and the management must find a way out through dialogue and negotiation,” he said.
According to him, there was no where in history where the employer would lock out its staff without any previous deliberation. “Lock out is against labour law and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention, moreso doing that because they want to retrench. “We have procedure for all labour related issues and a company cannot just lock out workers at this critical period and without any discussion with the union,” he said.
It will be recalled that the Acting President of NECA, Mr. Taiwo Adeniyi at a briefing last week after the Association’s Governing Council meeting has said there was an understanding that instead of retrenchment, employers could enter into negotiation with their unions on how they could resolve the crisis, which may not rule out some adjustment in salary. However, the NUCFRLANMPE President said the Nycil’s management had antecedents of anti labour practices, which the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, the royal head of the community, the Olota of Ota at different occasions had intervened without success.
He said, “Nycil has been members of the union for several years without any problem, but since the new management took over five years ago, it had always been one crisis or the other. The problem is with the chairman, since he came on board he has sacked over four Managing Directors and never honoured any of the agreement signed with the workers. ‘Sincerely it’s a complex issue, which includes no internal negotiation, no appraisal, flagrant disregard to collective bargaining and risking workers life due to undue exposure to chemicals.” He insisted that the union would not hold any clandestine meeting with the management and would continue the protests until the gate of the company is opened for dialogue with the representative of the workers. The Managing Director, Mr. Badmus Abudu in his reaction said the management decided to lock out the workers to forestall violence. He said the management was open to peaceful resolution of the crisis and as such would be meeting with the top board members in Ikeja to decide on the way forward.