Written by Ayo Ayodeji Monday, 21 March 2011 00:43
On Thursday, 3 February 2011, workers of Sadhwanis Nigeria Limited embarked on a struggle against the exploitative and inhuman management of the company. The plastic factory is located at Apakun Industrial Estate, Ajao Estate, Lagos.
What started as a protest against the termination of a worker, Oladipupo Ismail, without reason, ended up in as a mass protest against all the terrible and deadly conditions the management of Sadhwanis imposed on the workers.
The management of Sadhwanis brought on board two extremely ruthless fellows as General Manager (Sony Joseph) and Personal manager (Christopher Uzoalu) last 2010 to re-vigor their attacks on the lives of the workers.
The work conditions in Sadhwanis are a living hell. Workers must put in an average of 12 hours a day for at least 6 days, an average of 60 hours a week. The accepted hours globally are 40-hours a week. In spite of the hours put in by workers, they get a miserable pay at the end of the month.
Workers are not allowed to go on annual leave and must do overtime. The pay for overtime was recently cut.
Workers were exposed to deadly chemicals without any form of protection. Many now have developed life threaten illnesses. Several workers have now cough out blood all day and suffer various health problems due to the effects of this highly toxic chemicals.
Based on the terrible conditions, the owners of Sadhwanis made enormous profits over the years and they developed other branches of businesses.
Management has now almost completed a new factory site in Sango area of Ogun State and intends to move to the new site soon. However, they intend to dismiss the workers whose blood and sweat they sucked to smile to bank.
The intention of management is to intensify further the exploitation of the remaining workers.
This is the reason why they became much more draconian and repressive.
The termination of Oladipupo Ismail without any reason was the last straw. It provoked workers into to action. Top on the demand of workers was the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of Ismail. The strike was total.
However, the response of management was to invite in the police, shut down the factory and lockout the workers. The intention of Sadhwanis owner was to use the development to implement their plan to half the workforce.
The draconian policy of management could never have succeeded had it not been for the collaboration of the top officials of the workers’ union who were not part of the factory workforce.
Sadhwanis workers are members of the National Union of Chemical, Footwear, Rubber, Leather and Non Metallic Products Employee, NUCFRLANMPE. The elected local branch leadership of the union led the workers’ struggle. However, the intervention of the top officers of the union was quite counter productive.
From day one when the workers’ protest started the officials of the union sent from the Oshodi Area council office stood against the workers. The National Vice President Sola, condemned the workers openly and blamed them for the conflict. No attempt by these elements to support the workers genuinely, this was quite unfortunate.
Rather, on February 11 they had a secret meeting with the management of Sadhwanis without the consent of the local union leadership at the Oshodi Area council office of the union. They later invited the local unit leadership to join them at the union secretariat. On getting there, the local leaders were coerced into signing a crude termination agreement with the management.
The local union leadership had earlier employed the services of a lawyer to legally challenge the actions of the management but the management ignored the letter of the lawyer and went on the criminal dismissal of more than 50 workers. No worker was even given a letter of termination; their names were just listed at the factory gate and they were told to come back for their payoff cheque.
In spite of the anti worker nature of the Nigerian laws, the actions of the Sadhwanis management are quite crude.
The workers were layoff and only part of their entitlements was paid. Those with health issues resulting from their exposure to dangerous chemicals were not considered.
They workers remaining now have more terrible working conditions imposed.
The top officers involved in this conspiracy were said to have received N50,000.00 each.
However, the affected workers have not given up the struggle; they have launched an impressive fightback. They intend to challenge these injustices legally and within the union.
Nigerian workers in general and NUCFRLANMPE workers in particular must rally round these workers and fight these injustices.
The developments in Sadhwanis must be exposed to the Nigerian working class. The inhuman conditions in Sadhwanis are not isolated incidence. They are quite general. Workers will definitely continue to fight against them.
There is an urgent need for the unions to defend workers’ interests. A national struggle for better wages and conditions of work is urgently needed.
No to crude layoffs!
For a 40-hour a week and better working conditions.
Compensation for all workers whose health have been damaged by toxic chemicals.
For a workers’ union that defends workers’ interests.