THE NIGERIAN LABOUR UNION IS DEAD
Our labour union is dead.
The platforms that were created for the primary purpose of labour advocacy have become larcenous pipelines for a brood of vipers reeling with charlatanism and hypocrisy. Gone are the days when the nation was brought to a standstill by sporadic industrial actions triggered by the NLC, those days when defaulters or over-sabis were hounded for sabotaging the efforts of the Union by going to work while others remained at home, those days when social media was almost non-existent in Nigeria and everybody had to tune in the local news channels in search of credible updates, those days when newspaper stands were bustling with both intellectual and ignoble arguments from frustrated workers, those days when the only choice you had was to participate in these protests in one way or another as against sauntering over social media in today's world.
A lot of issues have been deliberately swept under the carpet by the labour unions whose members have occasionally lashed at and thrown allegations of embezzlement, money laundering and what not at one another. If you ask me, I'd say these spats should never be taken with a pinch of salt. They know themselves and it's only logical to engage in ignominious bouts for public revelry and consumption. It's only logical they cancel out one another so as to make way for the decent bodies fighting for the common man. If you have lived in Nigeria long enough, by now, you ought to have noticed how labour unions have been systematically replaced by CSOs and in some cases, NGOs. The activities and duties you would expect of labour unions are now being undertaken by CSOs. Like you, I think it's confusing too. But what other choice is there when millions of underemployed and unemployed graduates are left at the mercy of slave-masters posing as colour-collar employers and what's more, a derelict labour union?
In eight years of the Obama administration, the US government - through private and public sector reforms - created about 15.4million jobs and thereby singled the previously doubled unemployment rate in the country. Since Donald Trump took office, the unemployment rate has further contracted to 4.4% - an all-time low. As a Nigerian, it becomes mind-boggling when you realize this remarkable development is being recorded in a country whose population is nearly two times that of ours. Yet, in a mysterious reversal of fortune, the unemployment rate in Nigeria continues to boom while the FG reports recovery of stolen sums and other phantom sectorial profits. You may wish to consult the National Bureau of Statistics for the current unemployment figure but the last time I checked, it was in the region of 18% - 22%.
If that does not perturb you, then you might be fazed by the colossal level of occupational slavery obtainable in the Nigeria labour market today. It's bad their employers are subjecting enough that graduates of Nigerian universities are often deemed “unemployable” by international standards but there’s a gangrenous feeling to the realization that majority of the “employable” graduates in the private sector to incendiary conditions. While a few companies score high marks in terms of exceptional working conditions as revealed by Jobber Man in their 2016 report, others leave way too much to be desired. Profitable companies - banks, oil corps, Telcos, FMCGs just to mention few - have now taken contract employment to be the order of the day. This they do, arguably in a bid to save tons of money that would have been expended on health insurance, bonus and promotion package, retirement benefits and what have you. Simply put, the process of hiring and firing a contract staff is faster than it takes to release sperm cells during copulation. Hence, it's clear why these companies opt for contract staff.
I won't bore you with details of the impediments and downturns faced by contract staff, just ask around you, you will find them. But in all this, who gains?
First, the employers; they spend less than would have been spent on full-time staff. For example, if it costs NGN2.2million/year to offset the bills of one full-time worker (salary, bonus, promotion, health insurance, vacation etc.), it would cost about half of that to offset the bills of a contract-worker (salaries only).
Second, the recruiters; they gain hefty commissions for each job they outsource. For example, if an employer is offering NGN140, 000/month for a contract staffer, the recruiters stand to snatch between 40,000 and 60,000 of that money as "commission" or "overhead". And that's just one person, now think about the multiplier effect of say 500 people under their purview. Some recruitment agencies are altruistic in their deals and others are outright tyrannical. Simple on the surface but technical on the inside.
Third, the employees (contract staff). They need the job and would damn whatever shortcomings may arise, as long as there's some form of remuneration at the end of each month. They hardly ever get to complain either, if ever at all, because the job is always on the line. It's why banks freely sack their workers. Good! Now you know the major constituents of the retrenched bank workforce - the contract staff.
Unfortunately, this is a cycle, a wave that will continue for, as labour unions remain decrepit. I don't know if there's any law, which stipulates the minimum and maximum limit of contract staff, allowed in an organization but there's got to be some constitutional consonance or dissonance somewhere along the line. It's hard to tell legal from illegal now. The knowledge is constrained and emancipation is being stifled by the moribund labour union.
Therefore, if you have so far had it easy, consider yourself lucky. And if you haven't, just keep pushing. Don't be the type that tells people to "intensify their job search"; you'd be surprised that the only option some job seekers are yet to explore is violence. As in, the only thing they haven't done in order to get a job is to bear weapons during job exams or interviews in a bid to coerce their potential employers to hire them.
The country is hard.
And remember, our labour union is dead.