It was Xmas eve, the 24th of December 2008. I had just returned home from school for the yuletide celebration and my uncle was set to live for work. “Time is running out, I think I have to be on my way to work” he said. Then I asked him why he needed to go to work when 25th was public holiday. He said production in their factory ends by 6am on Xmas day.
Uncle is an industrial worker who after our conversation walked up to my younger brother and said to him “oh! That reminds me, if I had known I would have stopped KLATZ (referring to me) from resigning his appointment with the company” he said “because the workers salary has been increased and I feel sorry for Kunle for leaving that work and proceed to Tai Solarin University Of Education” I asked him how much is the total remuneration package for a fresh permanent staff. He said it’s a minimum of #18000 including all other fringe benefits. Again I asked him what his portfolio in the company was. He said he was still a temporary member of staff who is still hoping to be confirmed as permanent staff in the year 2009. He has remained a casual worker since I left the company as a permanent staff in June 2006. I understand that the Indian men have continued to perpetuate his poverty by retaining him as a casual worker in the slavery work. He is living extremely below the bearable line of poverty and as such, he cannot think accurately to understand that the decision I made in June 2006 (having served the company as a permanent staff for 5 years and above) was the right decision. The question now is if a permanent staff member earns minimum of #18000 monthly, I wonder what meager does my uncle earn as a casual worker or temporary staff.
Let me quickly ship in here what Comrade Solomon Onaghion said regarding workers salary in Nigeria. Comrade Onaghion is the Secretary General of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) and at the same time the Treasurer, Trade Union Congress (TUC) who calculated workers salary in Nigeria from the point of view of the prisoners. He said and I quote “a prisoner enjoys free accommodation, free medical services, free clothing and free food. Free everything. When you add that you are going to come out to the range of #34,000…” (Nigerian Tribune, Wednesday, 22 October, 2008. p.20) if government therefore can spend such amount on prisoners and law abiding citizens and workers earn #18,000 monthly and remain contented with it, I then wonder who is to be pitied between my uncle and me.
I became worried also because I could feel what the Webs described as “PARASITIC TRADES” in my uncle’s pseudo-employment. Parasitic Trades are trades which substantially underpay workers who worked practically for pocket money because of the employee’s desperate need for survival which forced them to agree to substandard working conditions with limited regard to job security and worthy standard of living. (Akinsanya, 2008) I could feel the reason why some workers would be suffering and still keep smiling under such degradation.
From the foregoing, it therefore becomes interesting for radical students of Industrial Relations like me to consider the following points for intellectual argument:
- That my uncle was set for work by 9pm on the 24th of December when the federal government had declared 25th as public Holiday.
- That he has remained a casual worker for close to three years.
- That a worker in a factory, who has a family to cater for, can earn such amount of money monthly compare to “jumbo salary” that political officers earn in Nigeria.
- We should also take time to analyze from Industrial Psychology, workers’ complacency under such inhuman condition of work and in such an abject poverty.
Without doubt, it is obvious that we need to start educating ourselves on how not to commit such fallacy as “better a poor work than nothing” among industrial workers in Nigeria. People like my uncle who have refused to transform their “false consciousness” to “class consciousness” in Marxian perspective abound in Nigerian Industrial Organisations. I therefore urge students of Industrial Relations to help teach any industrial workers that we may find within our environment the basic things they should know as an industrial worker. I mean those workers who may fall victim of “Industrial Work Alienation” that Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim talked about. I do not however mean that we should instigate them to turn against their employers’ authority but at least we should endeavor to enlighten them a bit. I also plead to the relevant authorities such as the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Ministry of Employment Labour and Productivities (MELP) and others who are responsible for seeing to matters related to this, to help find a solution to this inhuman social phenomenon. This is because this menace is fast getting out of control. Some employers need to be informed that the vestige of era of “industrialization” should be jettisoned and embrace a humanly method of treating the nation’s wealth builders. There is need for a complete overhaul in our industrial work relationships. Workers too need to be fully informed, educated and enlightened on the way the contemporary work arrangement should be so that they can rise and join forces in tackling this social menace that Anthony Giddens referred to as “juggernaut”. Government also has crucial roles to play in this motion for emancipation of those who build the wealth for the nation that they govern. They may even go as far as setting up a commission that will checkmate and sanction any employer who in anyway unfairly treats his workers just the same way the EFCC is to curb corruption. This is because our lack of respect to human dignity and empowerment is one of the fundamental factors that eat up the chances for Nigeria to develop just like corruption does. It is therefore until we make effort to remove this unreasonable complacency that we have by way of public or private policies as well as bureaucracy created in those workers who are degraded in the real sense that Nigerian can begin to take a step towards her sustainable development.
Oludeyi Olukunle Saheed.