By Bimbola Oyesola
SINCE the global financial crisis hit the industrialised world, casualisation of workers has become a global phenomenon. Though an acceptable trend, this does not mean it is the best practice in the world of work. In fact, global organisations like the International Labour Organisation (ILO), IndustriALL and Public Service International (PSI) had at different fora condemned the practice.
The recent mass sack in the banking sector and the furore it has generated so far has once again brought into fore the detriment of casualisation. In Nigeria, 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.”
The conditions include the nature of the employment and if the contract is for a fixed term and the date the contract expires.
Wikipedia defines workforce casualisation as the process, which employment shifts from a preponderance of full-time and permanent positions to casual and contract positions.
Investigation from Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) shows that many workers in the banking, telecommunications, oil and gas sectors are casual labourers. Other sectors with large percentage of casual labourers include mining, steel, insurance. In all these sectors, staff outsourcing and casualisation have become the order of the day, as workers in these sectors no longer have regularised employment terms. A report by the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights in Nigeria, an NGO dealing with labour issues, had said that 45 per cent of Nigeria’s labour force was made up of casual workers. The report expressed the fear that the situation would only worsen as employers seek out ways to reduce cost of doing business in an environment, such as Nigeria where the cost of doing business is very high due to lack of basic infrastructure. Also, a report by the US Solidarity Centre detailed the Nigerian oil industry’s shift from permanent and direct employment towards outsourced and temporary labour. The report which, argues that the casualisation of labour is industry-wide however revealed that the desire to reduce the cost of doing business and also break workers’ strength have continued to lure many employers and companies to this mode of contracting their work force.
However, casualisation of workers is more prominent in the financial and the oil and gas sectors of the Nigeria’s economy. While the oil and gas has however devised a way of nipping it in the bud by emphasizing that all the workers irrespective of their status should belong to a union, it is a different ball game in the financial sector, most especially the banks. Recently, the organised private sector unions accused employers of replacing their full-time workers with temporary, casual, outsourced and contract workers at a high rate adding that employers now hide behind what they call the ‘core’ value of their businesses to casualise over 70 per cent of their workforce.
Though the president of the Association of Senior Staff of Bank Institutions and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Sunday Salako, reacting to the mass sack in the banking sector said most of the union’s members were not affected, but he insisted that there was need to have equality, justice and fairness for workers in their workplace.
According to him, “Casualisation and outsourcing are satanic influences. They are like ill winds that blow us no good. I have always said that they are alien to this country. Anybody that encourages casualisation and outsourcing in Africa is satanic. The person should be examined, because in Africa, for instance, for every man that works, there are 10 or 12 or thereabout to feed. If it (casualisation) can work in Europe, because of the type of life they live-it is me and my immediate family, nobody else. You do not have extended families. You can even decide not to greet your brother.
“But here in Africa, because of our communal way of living, for every one that works, no fewer than 10 persons feed from one person.
“So, if you casualise people and do it the way we do it here, it is satanic. Here, you have two people working in an environment; they have gone to the same school probably, they have the same qualification, and so on because he/she is a permanent staff and the other is unfortunate to be a casual staff, the disparity in their salary is so wide. That is bad.”
The ASSIBIFI president added that casualisation was another form of modern day slavery and that the union should confront and put an end to the scourge. He pointed out that decent work and decent pay is the right of all and any worker, though it was unfortunate that Nigeria has become a dumping ground for all manner of goods, services and policies, no thanks in a large part to the Indians and Chinese.
The ILO perspective
International Labour Organisation (ILO) recently revealed that forced labour in the private economy generates $150 billion in illegal profits per year, about three times more than previously estimated.
The ILO report titled: “Profit and poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour’, said two thirds of the estimated total of $150bn, or $99bn, came from commercial sexual exploitation, while another $51bn resulted from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work, agriculture and other economic activities.
“This new report takes our understanding of trafficking, forced labour and modern slavery to a new level,” said ILO Director- General Guy Ryder said: “Forced labour is bad for business and development and especially for its victims. Our new report adds new urgency to our efforts to eradicate this fundamentally evil, but hugely profitable practice as soon as possible. ” The new figure is based on ILO data published in 2012 that estimated the number of people in forced labour, trafficking and modern slavery at 21 million.
Significantly, the new estimate indicates that more than half of the people in forced labour are women and girls, primarily in commercial sexual exploitation and domestic work, while men and boys were primarily in forced economic exploitation in agriculture, construction, and mining.
According to ILO, the breakdown of profits generated by forced economic exploitation is as follows: US $34 billion in construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities 9bnUS$ in agriculture, including forestry and fishing 8bn US $ saved by private households by not paying or underpaying domestic workers held in forced labour.
The report highlights income shocks and poverty as the main economic factors that push individuals into forced labour.
Other factors contributing to risk and vulnerability include lack of education, illiteracy, gender and migration.
Curtailing the casualisation virus
Unemployment is one of the reasons why casualisation has remained a daunting challenge and in spite of what it entails many young Nigerians, who have no other option, are still willing to take up jobs as causual workers. Many stakeholders believe that employers that engage part- time or casual workers are just avoiding cost, nothing more and nothing less.
Meanwhile experts have linked casualisation to the falling quality of bank services. Since this crop of staff is not well catered for they are equally not effectively trained. Often times this class of employees does not benefit from regular capacity building bank staff should be having.
Also many whether rightly or wrongly have linked the increasing rate of fraud in the banks to casualisation among other causes.
On the global level, it is opined that while the growth of casualisation seems unstoppable, there is one thing that could lead to a slow down, or even reversal, of the trend: when the talent shortage again takes hold, employers may want to tie down their people with permanent employment.
For example in Australia, while there may be 700,000 Australians now looking for work, experts say it would take very little before talent shortages start presenting a real problem once more for a wide variety of roles.
Talent shortages were having a serious impact on business performance before the global financial crisis, when the unemployment rate was at 4.5 per cent. “With our rate at between 5.5 per cent and 6 per cent, that is not far away.”
Though in the past tackling the problem of casualisation of workers in Nigeria was a big hurdle to the labour unions, and still is, but organised labour and the new Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige seem ready to confront the menace.
At the just concluded International labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, the minister said the ministry as the supervisory body is ready to nip in the bud unlawful casualisation of Nigerians in the workplaces.
Salako, who is the Deputy President of Trade Union Congress (TUC) said he saw the Minister’s stance as commendable, as in the past both ASSIBIFI and its parent’s body, TUC have repeatedly urged the Federal Government to invoke the relevant laws of the country against companies that enslave Nigerians through the practice of casualisation and contract staffing,” he said.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), is also proposing some tactics to curtail more the negative effects of casualisation and outsourcing of jobs on the nation’s workforce.
Indeed, some labour leaders recently alleged that some multinationals on a regular basis import ‘expatriates’ into the country to take full time employment, leaving qualified Nigerians as ‘casuals or contract’ workers with no legal status or employment benefit.
Speaking at a rally to mark the 2015 May Day in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba said Casualisation continues to be an issue in NLC relations with employers, “many of whom are not prepared to pay for the labour they use”.
Wabba said: “We at the Nigeria Labour Congress recognise the transformations that have taken place around the world of work at work place, where rigidity has given way to flexibility. However, we do not think Casualization can be an option”
He described casualization as a grievous anti-worker practice “which makes nonsense of our quest for decent jobs”.
Explaining further, Wabba said: “In-line with our promises to the Nigerian workers, the Nigeria Labour Congress under my leadership will offer strident resistance against casualization and outsourcing of jobs.
“While we encourage our affiliate unions to re-double their efforts in tackling this hydra-headed monster, we enjoin the government to partner with us to stamp out this ugly menace in our workplaces.
“In the days ahead, therefore, we shall strengthen our Anti-Casualization Campaign Committee to engage employers who are not ready to change”, said Wabba.
The NLC at its meeting with the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) on the mass sack in the banks and the non unionisation said its equally going to employ the tripartite options involving the Ministry of Labour to stop casualisation in the sector.