Home Opinion #Opinion – Casual labour: The legal implication

#Opinion – Casual labour: The legal implication



By Evans Ufeli

The Nigerian labour market is awash with numerous troubles and because work is instrumental to man’s livelihood people go out to work under the worse condition. Sometime ago people got stampeded in National stadiums across the country in a bid to clinch a job offer to sustain life. They died while trying to keep the very life they lost.

Foreign companies have long cashed in on our desperation to treat our citizens recklessly.
Casualisation in the Nigerian labour market has become a subject of great concern as more workers continue to groan under this immoral strategy of cutting cost by employees. Statistics from the Nigeria Labour Congress shows that many workers in the Telecommunications, Insurance, Banking, Oil and gas sectors are casual labourers.

Other sectors with thousands of casual labourers include mining, steel and the brewery. In all these sectors, staff outsourcing and casualisation have become the order of the day as workers in these sectors no longer have regularised employment terms. It is reported that 45 per cent of Nigeria’s labour force is made up of casual workers. It is evident that the value keeps rising.

The report expressed the fear that the situation would only worsen as employers seek out ways to reduce cost of doing business. Again, a report by the US Solidarity Centre detailed the Nigerian oil industry’s shift from permanent and direct employment towards outsourced and temporary labour. It is said that the casualisation of labour is industry-wide and is a clear attempt to reduce the cost of doing business while simultaneously breaking workers’ strength. The continued engagement of casual labourers is at variance with provisions of section 17 (a) of the Constitution, which guarantees “equal pay for equal work”. The section frowns at discrimination on account of sex, or any other ground whatsoever and so the discrimination in pay between permanent and casual employees should not exist.

Legally speaking contract staffing and casualisation contravene Section 7 (1) of the Labour Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. The Act provides that, “Not later than three months after the beginning of a worker’s period of employment with an employer, the employer shall give to the worker a written statement specifying the terms and conditions of employment, which include the nature of the employment and if the contract is for a fixed term, the date when the contract expires.” Part of the pains casual workers go through is that they never benefit from special packages like others. They don’t have the full entitlements on the job allowances, transportation, leave allowances, medicals, amongst other things.

A visit to some manufacturing companies reveals a large number of factory workers gathering as early as 6am at the entrances of these companies, mostly owned by Indians, Lebanese, and Chinese to be absorbed, either for daily or weekly appointment but never for permanent employment as the employers are only looking for cheap labour. Workers in these organisations have suffered from one degree of injury or the other in the course of discharging their duties and responsibilities without any compensation for the victims. This often ranges from minor to permanent disability, which has forced some of these workers out of jobs precipitately.  Section 12 of the Labour Act, 2004 defines personal injuries as including any disease and any impairment of a person’s physical or mental condition, arising out of his employment. Generally, under the law, an employee who suffers injury at work may either obtain damages or claim compensation. Nigerians are not compensated when they are injured in the course of their employment.

The situation of the country have made the unemployed to see casualisation as a big relief. Labour activists, have been fighting casualisation in the recent times but it seems to be increasing because the workers themselves have seen it as something that has come to stay. You can’t tell someone who has no job for over five years not to take up temporary employment from an organisation. It’s a structural problem, and there can’t be progress in the fight against this form of slavery without the government.

Casualisation is one weapon the employers had used in the last few years to weaken workplace organisation and to drive wages down. The employers have failed to realise  that an over-reliance on casual employment can pose a serious risk to productivity. The Trade Union Congress has repeatedly urged the Federal Government to invoke the relevant laws of the country against companies that enslave Nigerians through the practice of casualisation and contract staffing. Central labour organisation is also seeking appropriate sanctions against companies including those outside of the financial services sector like the oil and gas companies that violate the expatriate quota rules and promote casualisation. In times past, what we had in our country is that you work for a period of three to six months and then you become a staff, once you are found to be able to discharge your duties very well, you start enjoying the benefits of being a staff today the story has changed.

image source: businesstech.co.za

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