Unemployment: Casualisation Persists Despite Labour Laws

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By Michael Oche, Abuja –

From banks to hotels and to construction companies, the scourge of casualization of employment in Nigeria is gaining grounds in an unprecedented proportion. Analysts say the rising case of unemployment is to be blamed for the menace.

At a meeting between the NLC and NECA (the umbrellas body of all employers in the country), which was held at the instance of NECA on 2nd May 2002, produced an agreement as follows: Employers who still have casuals will regularize their employment, in regularizing their employment, the rates to be paid will be in accordance with prevailing procedural and substantive collective agreements in the industry, which will also be taken into account in protecting the rights of the workers.

Sadly, more than 15 years after that agreement was reached, casualization and contract staffing still persist.

Employers of labour in Nigeria are increasingly filling positions in their organizations that are supposed to be permanent with casual employees. But more worrisome is the gradual acceptance of this unfriendly labour practice in the Nigerian labour market.

According to statistics by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), underemployed rate in Nigeria rose to 21.0 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016 from 19.7 per cent recorded in the third quarter of the same year.

Under the same period, the unemployment rate in the country rose from 13.9 per cent in the 3rd quarter to 14.2 per cent in the 4th quarter of 2016. It implied that 26.06 million persons were unemployed in 2nd quarter and while 24.5 million were unemployed in the 1st quarter in the year under review.

“Under the employment statistics, a casual worker is an unemployed person. He is supposed to take the temporary job while looking for a permanent one. But in Nigeria, the case is different. Some casual workers have remained so for upwards of 20 years. After some time, they get used to their misfortune and they therefore live and die as casual workers, under the illusion that they are real workers,” a union leader, Eze Okechukwu said.

Last May, the National Union of Hotels Personal Services Workers (NUHPSW) raised the alarm that nine out of every 10 workers in the country’s hospitality sector were either casual or contract staff.

In the same vain, construction workers unions have persistently complained about the continuous casualization of their members by construction companies operating in the country.

Legally speaking contract staffing and casualisation contravenes Section 7 (1) of the Labour Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The Act provides that, “Not later than three months after the beginning of a worker’s period of employment with an employer, the employer shall give to the worker a written statement specifying the terms and conditions of employment, which include the nature of the employment and if the contract is for a fixed term, the date when the contract expires.”

Casual staffing is also at variance with provisions of section 17 (a) of the Constitution, which guarantees “equal pay for equal work”. The section frowns at discrimination on account of sex or any other ground whatsoever and so the discrimination in pay between permanent and casual employees should not exist.

Part of the pains casual workers goes through is that they never benefit from special packages like others. They don’t have the full entitlements on the job allowances, transportation, leave allowances, medicals, amongst other things.

“Our employers are becoming more aggressive due to the economic challenges. We are going through a lot of bad times with our employers,” General Secretary of the NUHPSW, Leke Success said while lamenting the actions of employers regarding contract staffing

Success expressed concern over unfair labour practices in the sector, just as he said most hotels and hospitality service providers have denied their members the right to unionise.

Losses suffered by casual employees include: abysmal low wages, absence of medical care allowances, no job security or promotion at work, no gratuity and other severance benefits, no leave or leave allowance, freedom of association which is often jeopardized, no death benefits or accident insurance at work, no negotiation or collective bargaining agreement

Another labour activist, Williams Kayode said, “Contract and casual employments must be viewed as crimes against humanity. Those jobs are exploitative and dehumanizing. Our laws must ensure fair and sufficient compensation as well as good welfare packages for all categories of workers through unrestricted legitimate rights to union activities, collectives bargaining and other statutory engagements. “

Workers have insisted that unions and the government must do more to ensure that the menace of casualization is brought to an end.