With over 20,000 of its members lost to the economic recession that saw most Nigerian companies facing various challenges ranging from total shut down, relocation to other countries, downsizing and right-sizing, the National Union of Chemical Footwear Rubber Leather and Non Metallic Products Employees (NUCFRLANMPE) has no other option, but to start thinking of other sources of income.
Goke Olatunji, president of the union, said his team coming in at the critical period knew that they had to sacrifice a lot to save the union from extinction in the nearest future.
He speaks on how check-off dues were no longer sufficient for the survival of organised labour movement, investment options and other related issues.
The economic situation in Nigeria is not palatable and it has much effect on the private sector. There are lots of factors contributing to that, one is insecurity; likewise companies are not having access to forex as they ought to. Equally, the roads are not good as well as electricity. Ideally, the essence of setting up business is to make profit and in a situation where this has not been, with all these problems, majority of the companies under our sector are closing down, some are relocating to other countries like Ghana, Sierra Leone. For others still managing to exist, it has not been easy. So, they have been taking it out on our members by sacking them to cut down on their cost of operation, whereas membership is our strength. The economic meltdown has really affected the country seriously. For example, Lafarge, in years past, if we got our check-off dues from the company, it covered our salary and other expenses for the month. But today, the reverse is the case, we get only a small amount from them because the junior workers in the company are now very few. We’ve lost almost 20,000 members. Casualisation and contract staffing have also continued to be a big hurdle to our organising new members. The ministry in this aspect too has been frustrating our work, as most of the contracting agencies are owned by spouses of the officials in the ministry. All our efforts to unionise the workers as the International Labour Organization (ILO) stated that all workers, irrespective of status, are workers, have been frustrated so far by the labour ministry officials.
Actually, we decided to diversify because we know that we can no longer rely on the check-off dues. The more reason we made up our mind to go into business, so that, in the future, the union would have things to rely on. We have been putting a lot of things in place. We believe that administration is all about continuity. For our investment, we have a parcel of land very close to the secretariat on the main road, which we thought would be good for a shopping complex. Inside it, we are building a shopping mall as well as event centre. The project has been roofed and already we’ve got people making enquiry on the property. With the situation of things, it will surely fetch us money that we can use for more developmental projects. As things are going in the country, a time may come that some unions will find it difficult to pay salary. Besides the mall, we also have a guest house inside the secretariat, which has about 15 rooms. We believe that we will be able to generate revenue from the project as well. It can also serve as accommodation for our members coming from outside the state; rather than lodging them in a hotel, we can lodge them at our guest house. That will also save the union some money.
Source of funds
It’s all about planning. Before the new leadership came into the office, we had manifestos. So, we are trying to pick things on our manifestos one by one and make sure we actualise them. It’s not all about the individual, but the team. We are on the same page, we cut our clothes according to what is available to us. We are not owing banks any kobo. Though we levied ourselves to get the job done, some paid and some have not paid. However, with the little we are getting from the check-off dues, we’ve been able to achieve this giant feat.
By the grace of God, we have the mind of acquiring some more land, which we can sell to people. We really have a lot of things we are working on. We are working for the future and if what we have now can fetch us N5 million, consecutively, it will further open us up to a lot of possibilities.