1 March 2006
Despite a relatively low attendance February’s official launch of the CDWR’s pamphlet Casualisation: Modern Day Slavery in Disguise was largely a huge success. Remarkably the event, which was covered by 10 media organizations, had in attendance labour leaders from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Congress of Free Trade Unions (CFTU), the two of the three labour centres in Nigeria, and also from two of the trade unions where casualisation is rampant: the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institution Employees (NUBIFIE) and the National Union of Shop and Distributive Employees (NUSDE). The labour leaders present included Bright Anokwuru, the Chairman of NLC Anti-Casualisation Committee who chaired the occasion and also represented Adams Oshiomhole, the NLC President; Ayo Ogundele, Assistant General Secretary, CFTU; S.A.S Babatunde, the General Secretary, NUSDE and A.C. Anyawu, the General Secretary, NUBIFIE.
Also present at the occasion were Comrade Segun Sango, the General Secretary of Democratic Socialist Movement and Dele Fanimo of Guardian Newspapers who was the book reviewer.
All the speakers, while painting the gloomy picture of the scourge of casualisation in Nigeria as a major attack most employers of labour inflict on workers almost with impunity, commended the bold step taken by the CDWR. It was feel that the publication will contribute immensely to the campaigns against this menace in workplaces. Generally, a good assessment and critique of the book was made by contributors and above all this was linked to a working class political alternative that was boldly put forward as a fundamental way of eradicating the menace of casualisation and other anti-labour activities.
Billy Bright Anokwuru. the chairman of the occasion. set the ball rolling with brief introduction of the efforts of the NLC against casualisation and other anti-trade union activities, commendation of CDWR and a call on trade union leaders and activists and pro-labour organisations etc to support CDWR’s campaign and also emulate the organisation.
In his welcome address, Comrade Rufus Olusesan, Chairman of the CDWR and NUSDE Vice-President, stated categorically that under Obasanjo regime, the conditions of the working people have deeply deteriorated in spite of the huge resources made from crude oil sales. He raised some recent instances of some employers’ attacks on the democratic rights of workers, like at PARCO Nigeria Limited where 35 workers were sacked for agitating for a union in their company. He posited that in the face of the reigning anti-poor capitalist neo-liberal policies of the government, casualisation and other anti-labour activities will continue unless all pro-masses’ organisations and parties come together to form a formidable political alternative built on class struggle. Such an alternative would have to daily intervene in day to day struggles of the working people and to ultimately wrestle political power for the enthronement of a government that can guarantee basic needs of working people.
Coming up next was Dele Fanimo the reviewer of the book who said that he had been following the activities of CDWR for sometime and thus when he got invitation to review the book, he felt it was more of a call to duty since he shared the same aspirations with the CDWR in terms of working for a better working environment for Nigerian workers.
In his review, he stated that the book captures the whole essence and history of exploitative and parochial tendencies of the West, which continue to dictate the tide of events in the country through its agencies such as IMF and World Bank policies. According to him, the book also exposes the class nature of struggle whereby there are two laws in operation, one for the poor and another for the rich. He said this is why it is difficult for employees to get justice except with the help of an organisation like CDWR while some labour leaders and labour organisations have compromised the interest of workers While briefly x-raying the chapters in the book, he explained how Chapter 2 exposes the anti-labour character of casualisation and examines the labour Act and the rights of workers. Chapters 3 and 4 examine critically how casualisation profits the employers of labour and also the horrors of casualisation, which has spread to both public and private schools. Subsequent chapters capture the menace of casual labour in foreign owned factories with pictorial illustrations to give a vivid account of what workers go through in their workplaces.
He observed that the book is simple and easy to digest but however suggested that if the 2nd edition is to be produced, the publication should put on more aesthetic value that will appeal more to readers. He further tasked the CDWR to carry out research on the roles of the Labour and Justice ministries in ensuring compliance with relevant laws. He finally submitted that books such as the CDWR pamphlet are capable of informing and educating the masses with the overall interest of effecting the necessary change in the society. He hoped that the book as one of the lone voices in the wilderness will catch the attention of the “oppressors of the masses” society and appeal to their moral conscience and effect the necessary change.
In his contribution, the General Secretary of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Comrade Segun Sango, posited that there is no way casualisation in Nigeria could be stopped without overthrowing the capitalist system, which is its root cause. He went further to state that casualisation exist because it is more profitable to the employers since all fringe benefits, entitlements and rights of the workers would be taken away. He stated that if a stop to casualisation and other anti-labour activities is to be guaranteed, the working people must struggle politically for power. This, he said, has to do with the right tactics and strategy whereby intervening in daily struggle of the working people is necessary.
He however used the occasion to reiterate the call of DSM on the labour leaders to concretely facilitate bringing about of a pro-working peoples’ party built on socialist programme that could wrestle power from the self-serving capitalist politicians and install a workers and poor farmers’ government. This could begin to plan production and governance on the basis of the needs of the working people and enable resources to be democratically managed and controlled by the working class people. Such democratic control was essential in order to forestall debacle that happened in the former Stalinist states of Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
A.C. Anyawu, the General Secretary of NUBIFIE in his speech gave a graphical situation of casualisation and other anti-labour practices in the banking industry. He stated that although bankers are well dressed, their take home salary is nothing to write home about even when the bank workers work longer hours than their counterparts in other industries. Also, workers are not allowed to unionise in some banks while female prostitution in the name of marketing banking products has become the order of the day. This, he said, was influenced by the harsh economic situation in the country. He concluded by encouraging CDWR to intensify campaign against casualisation and other anti-labour activities. He bought 20 copies of the publication with a sum of N5, 000 (35 US$).
The General Secretary of National Union of Shop Distributive Employees (NUSDE), S.A.S Babatunde, stated that he was inspired by the work of CDWR not only in production of anti-casualisation book but also its committed fight for the interest of victimized workers at different factories. He made a cash donation of N10, 000 (70 US$) on behalf of his union.
In his own remarks, Ayo Ogundele, the Assistant General Secretary of the CFTU stated that the book is a must read for every conscious worker and that as much possible, the book should be circulated among workers. He made a pledge donation of N5, 000 (35 US$) on behalf of his labour centre.
Also contributed was Mrs. Gloris Enebeli, a representative of victimised workers of PARCO Enterprises Nig. Ltd. In her speech she argued that despite calls on labour leaders in NUSDE and the NLC Committee on casualisation, no serious action or intervention was made by the labour leaders in regard to their unjust sacking after agitating for a union in their company. According to her, 35 workers have been sacked and that it is comrades of CDWR and DSM that have been fighting to see that they are reinstated.
Comrade Toyin Raheem, the Chairman of the National Conscience Party Agege Local Government area, submitted that more than anytime in the history of this country, there is a dire need for a working class alternative where the youths, women, workers, unemployed must struggle to change the present rotten system.
The book launch was brought to an end with a closing remark from Comrade Victor Osakwe, the Secretary of the CDWR, who called on all participants not to see the event as talk shop but should carry on the message and struggle with the aim of bringing about the fundamental change and putting a stop to casualisation and other anti-labour activities. A sum of N20,000 was raised altogether in cash and pledges.