Written by Workers' Alternative Wednesday, 10 September 2008 14:44
We are now living in a period when employers can no longer survive without attacking the employees, and employees can no longer tolerate further attacks. This is a graphical description of this contemporary society, and the recent victimization of workers in LINDA Manufacturing Company in Ikeja Nigeria gave a very concrete example of what is going on in all factory places all over the world.
The management of this company has already placed so much burdens on the workers vis-à-vis, no medical/clinic facilities for the workers even in case of industrial accident, over 12 hours working hours from 7.30 am to 7.30pm and over 80% of the workers were initially casuals. Most of the casual workers had already spent over 5 years in this company.
For over six years, workers had been living forcefully with these myriad of injustices, no thanks to their Union Leaders. To make the matter worse, instead of the management to appreciate the Union Leaders by paying them specially from the excessive profit they are milking out of the workers, they just simply advised the union leaders to organize their own exploitative means of squeezing more blood from already blood-shortage workers of LINDA, after all, no one will stand up in their defense.
Workers are to resume 8.00 am, but they must have entered the factory before 7.30am, if they entered the gate at 7.31 am, they have forfeited 60 naira daily feeding allowance to their supervisor who are themselves part of the Union apparatus. Considering the distances that separate most workers from their working places and the anarchy of transportation in major cities, this working condition is excessively harsh for the workers of LINDA and most of them commonly loss their daily 60 naira to the Union apparatus. Rather than asking the management to provide clinic and good medical facilities for the workers, Union Leaders deducts 50 naira every month from the workers salary, this amount to over 150,000 naira every month just like that. As if this is not enough, Union Leaders deduct another 100 naira every month amounting to over 300,000 naira from the same leaned workers salary, the reason for this is so vague under the name of “Legal Matters”, one wonders; what legal campaign can this type of union successfully carry out against the management in the interest of workers it can only be otherwise as later event showed. Another 100 naira per month amounting to over 300,000 naira monthly, Union Leaders says this is for “Staff Matters”, after a prolonged period of wait and watch, Linda Workers finally asked their Union Leaders; “Give us the details about Staff Matters?” With this question raised in October 2006, a bitter struggle began, limit of workers’ tolerance has been reached, and every worker in Linda unanimously shouted “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”.
A double barrel attack (One from the management and the second from their own Union Leaders) on over 3,000 workers of LINDA was too heavy to swallow for two long. A fight back that commenced in August 2006 first achieved a resounding victory with over 400 casual workers staffed and the management signed an undertaking that every month they will be staffing any casual worker that has spent 2 years. The deduction for the so called Staff Matters was discontinued, though no account was made of how the previously collected was spent.
This naturally triggered a veracious and most malicious counter attack from the Union Leaders in alliance with the management against the most active members of Linda workers. They first issued query to 15 activists who were already becoming popular among the workers, accusing them of “Incitement of Workers against the Union Chairman”. In August, 2007, five of the activists were suspended from work. This was followed by a day strike and a movement to nearby Television station (MBI). Before they returned from this protest match, the Managing Director of the company had already announced the reversal of the suspension placed on the workers activists and placed the blame for the unrest on the Union Leaders. This turned of event created a very serious confusion for the Workers activists who started placing all their hopes on the MD of the Company. Anything they are not happy with, they quickly ran to MD to complain and hoped to get a favorable resolution, they did not know that, human being is behind the masquerade that made it talk.
Another set of four activists were later suspended from October 2007. Instead of mobilizing the workers as was done earlier, they heeded the advice of the Management to go about it with dialogue and mutual understanding. This went on for 3 months, and the suspension was later reversed only when the situation was becoming chaotic and the patience of the workers, who were still solidly behind their own chosen leaders, was getting to the limit.
Sensing danger that was developing as a result of immense popularity being enjoyed by these activists, the Official Union leaders had become so unpopular that he could not freely move around the work premises without one insult or the other from the workers. One of the activists called Fatai, was already becoming so popular that all the workers in Linda had already mobilized themselves independently of him, to forcefully replace the existing Union Chairman (who has made himself a life chairman) by him.
Fatai gave orders and everybody followed, he became the voice of the oppressed workers of Linda and naturally became their natural leaders. This must not be allowed to go on for too long, so said the official Union Leaders and Management.
11th of October 2007, thirty workers were later sacked without any reason given to them. They all heard of their sack at the chamber of the company lawyers. Up till now, no reason has been officially given for this malicious act. No sack letter has been distributed.
Unfortunately, the sacked activists spent months chasing the management to help intervene and reverse their dismissals; the outcome of this method is obvious. They ran to state secretariat of their union, since the local union is the arrow head of this victimization, but frustratingly enough this part too did not yield any fruitful result.
Up till now, the sacked activists are still searching for justice that is far away from them. A legal option has been proposed and the process has commenced, but under capitalism, money dictates the tune. We are using this medium to solicit support for these martyrs who are being unjustly victimized for defending the cause of Linda workers.
Injustice to one is an injustice all.