Curbing the casual employment syndrome
The poor working condition in Nigeria is not only reprehensible it is something that needs to be reviewed and corrected. Workers are generally exploited and unhappy. So many are treated as slaves and subjected to humiliating experiences at workplaces.
Many work very hard but receive peanuts as remuneration, something that could be described as slave wage. The labour laws are flagrantly flouted by the employers and the situation is worse in the private sector.
For instance, many state governments owe workers’ salaries for several months, thereby making the victims beggars. The exploitation of workers is sickening. Working with no other benefits outside the meagre pay is the norm in many places. In manufacturing companies those who are unfortunate to sustain debilitating injuries are abandoned to fate by their employers.
The foregoing being the lot of most workers on full-time employment, it is then better left to the imagination what those on casual employment suffer.
Unfortunately, most of these workers lack the capacity to seek legal redress and the employers capitalize on the hopelessness to ill treat them beyond measure. Certainly, the casual workers are the worst hit under Nigeria’s harsh working condition.
It is therefore, not surprising that the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productively, Chris Ngige, the other day, urged firms to curb the menace of casual employment. Ngige particularly called on human resources managers in the private sector to stop the use of casual workers and ensure that workers are given full employment and equal opportunities.
The Minister made the call in Abuja at the 49th Annual National Conference of the Chartered Institute of Management of Nigeria (CIMN). He pointed out that failure to grant full employment and benefits to members of staff contravened the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions to which Nigeria is signatory.
Personnel managers are also urged to protect the interest of workers while carrying out the wishes of their companies. He said that the ILO Convention frowns at “casualisation.”
For quite a long time, there have been serious concerns over the casualisation of workers in the country especially in the banks and other financial institutions. Stakeholders have been outspoken because of the devastating impact of the practice on the market, the victims and the economy as a whole.
Casualisation is a situation whereby employment shifts from normal full-time and permanent positions, with full benefits, to casual and contract positions that benefits mainly the employer. There is practically no sector of the Nigerian economy that is not involved in casualisation of workers. Ministries, departments, agencies, oil companies, banks and others are also involved.
For instance, in the banking industry, under this aberration, casual workers are not given normal entitlements but are expected to deliver on high targets.
The recent observation by the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) from bank returns and during physical examination exercises of a strong correlation between high incidence of frauds and forgeries in the banking system and the use of contract staff clearly point to the dangers inherent in casualisation.
This was corroborated by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) which, a while ago, admitted that over 75 per cent of fraud cases in the sector have been traced to outsourced bank staff members who were not professionals or members of the CIBN.
No doubt, casual employees, who reportedly account for 25 per cent of the banking industry workforce, have a negative impact on the industry. Some banks are even known to assign sensitive roles to casual workers, thereby exposing the banking industry to fraud.
Casualisation is traceable to the gross unemployment situation in the country, which forces people to go out and work under the worst of conditions.
In the case of the banks, the desperation to amass huge deposits, cut costs and ensure profit maximisation are responsible for casualisation in the industry.
Above all, government’s policy of outsourcing jobs has more or less emboldened the private sector to get deeper into the practice.
Incidentally, there is a law against this ugly practice. Contract employment and casualisation of labour contravene Section 7 (1) of the Labour Act, Cap 198, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1990.
The law provides that “not later than three months after the beginning of a worker’s period of employment with an employer, the employer shall give the worker a written statement, specifying the terms and conditions of employment.”
Unfortunately, most workers in casual employment are denied the platform to protest or they are afraid of losing those jobs should they challenge their employers.
That being the case, ultimately, government should provide succour to these helpless Nigerians. The minister, therefore, should not only make an appeal to employers, he should take steps to ensure that no worker is unduly exploited.
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