THE Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) says it picketed the telecommunication company, MTN offices across the country, because, the company denied its workers the fundamental principles of the rights at work.
The Labour Congress and its allies in the civil society commenced the picketing of the company’s offices nationwide on Monday and continued on Tuesday.
“MTN Nigeria since it commenced operations in Nigeria, in clear violation of extant national and international labour laws, especially ILO Conventions 87 and 98 has denied its workers the fundamental principles of the rights at work,” said Ayuba Wabba, NLC President in a press statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday.
He said the press statement was “intended to explain the reasons for the action” as well as debunk the false information being fed the public by MTN that “our members have been unruly in prosecuting this action which is intended to divert attention from the real issues.”
Wabba accused the telecommunication outfit of indulging in anti-labour practices such as casualisation for nearly all types of work, fixed- term contract work for Nigerian workers, worst forms of precarious work, etc.
He noted that the Congress had on several occasions protested to the MTN and government about “these unwholesome practices.”
According to him, 7 October, 2017 during the World Decent Work Day marked a watershed in these protests as NLC briefly picketed the Maitama office of MTN, Abuja.
MTN, he said, in response to the action of NLC, reached out to Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA) which brokered a meeting.
“However, due to inexplicable reasons, MTN opted out of the negotiations to the chagrin and embarrassment of NECA.” He said
“Thereafter every effort by NECA and NLC to get MTN to the negotiating table failed.”
He revealed that NECA pulled out of the negotiations out of frustration.
Wabba explained that NLC was left no choice after its subsequent efforts yielded no response noting that the Congress served MTN notice of a picket in line with the provisions of the law.
“This action commenced across the country yesterday, Monday, July 9, 2018. And in prosecuting this picket, our members have been peaceful and orderly.”
While cautioning MTN to desist from cheap blackmail and propaganda about the picketing exercise, he said it should rather do the needful by giving Nigerian workers in its employ, their rights to freely associate, and hold an opinion as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution, the Labour Laws and Conventions 87 and 98 of the ILO.
He added that Nigeria is the country where MTN refuses to allow workers to unionise.
“In South Africa where the company comes from, workers are unionised. Indeed, our counterparts in South Africa are worried that we have allowed this matter to linger for so long as MTN may choose to try to impose similar conditions on them.
“In Ghana, workers are unionised as in every other country MTN carries on business.”
The NLC President wondered why MTN that makes over 60 per cent of its global money in Nigeria should be so “disdainful of our laws and people?”
He maintained that companies, no matter how rich or powerful, must obey the laws of the land, adding that they must treat Nigerians fairly and decently.
But in its reaction, the telecom company said it never prevented its employees from associating among themselves as they deem fit.
Tobechukwu Okigbo, Corporate Relations Executive of MTN in a statement sent to the ICIR said all workers have rights that should be protected.
“We do not prevent our employees from associating amongst themselves as they deem fit and owe our employees the obligation to ensure they are not compelled to join associations. MTN supports the freedom of association as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.
“All workers have rights that should be protected. We work hard to not only ensure that this is done but also to ensure that our company is a Great Place to Work. We will continue to champion our peoples’ rights, whether they are part of a union or not and work hard to minimise disruptions in service to our customers.”
He lamented the attacks on the company’s properties and some of its employees during the picketing exercise on Tuesday by members of NLC.
“Today’s violence and the needless destruction of property is deeply saddening. As always our primary concern is the safety and well-being of our employees, some of whom were attacked by supposed NLC operatives and have sustained injuries.”