The Nigerian Labor Union (NLC) demonstrated against the Shaanxi Construction Company on Wednesday at the New ECOWAS Secretariat, Airport Road, Lugbe, over the casualization and cruel treatment of its members there.
Activities at the company’s office were temporarily halted by a protest organized by the Construction Workers Union and the Nigerian Labour Congress, together with its affiliated unions, under the leadership of Comrade Emmanuel Ugbaja, General Secretary of the NLC.
The construction company was charged by the labor union of casualizing the management and demeaning the employees.
“Don’t kill workers with poor wages and overbearing overtime!” was one of the slogans on the placards carried by the protesting workers who forcibly stormed into the building site after the Chinese company refused to allow them entry. They also chanted songs of solidarity.
Comrade Emma Ugboaja, the general secretary of the NLC, spoke to the protesting employees and bemoaned the purportedly cruel treatment of the workers at the building site.
According to him, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chapter of the construction workers union complained to congress about poor working conditions at the building site.
According to Ugboaja, the Chinese corporation hired the workers on an as-needed basis without attaching any terms of employment and without providing any welfare or medical care.
He grieved that one of the employees, a driver named Mr. Augustine, passed away owing to negligence and a delay in receiving medical care as a result of the appalling working conditions at the location.
While the picketing action is still in progress, according to Ugboaja, the labor leadership hopes to have a conversation with Shaanxi Construction Engineering Group Corporation management about the issues that their employees are raising.
Regarding the demise of the driver, Ugboaja said: ” Mrs. Ruth Augustine migrated with her husband and family to Abuja to come and earn a living. Now the man in to help build ECOWAS a Secretariat has ended up six feet down leaving his poor widow to face the vagaries of life, no pension, no gratuity, no food, no water and no explanation, where will help come from?
“Every day we plead with the government to provide minimal social security floor, to no avail. That is the challenge we have. This challenge is real,” he said.
Ugboaja said that contrary to critics who accuse labour of crying wolves where there are none, the widow of the deceased was present to tell the story of the ugly experience of her late husband.
Narrating her ordeal, Ruth said her husband secured a job last year as a driver with a Chinese company, but that the condition he was given does not allow him to come home after work.
“He will work from Monday till Sunday. I asked him whether they give him a bonus for the overtime and extra work he was doing. He said no. My husband will work from morning till night with no food and he will not be allowed to come home.
“Even when he comes home, he will not stay up to an hour before hurting back the site, the woman said. Ruth said that after the husband returned to work in January after Christmas festivities, he stayed back for two months at the company without visiting home.
“However, Mrs. Augustine said she became worried and called him.
“From the conversation, I knew he was very sick”.
She claimed that the business failed to transport her husband to the hospital and continued to deny him permission to receive treatment at home. “His situation has gotten worse since they finally let him go home. He had a bulging neck and appeared to be severely underweight, she claimed.
The widow claimed to have taken her husband to the National Hospital where he passed away after being treated at the Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital in Abuja.
Mrs. Augustine claimed that throughout each of these difficulties, the Chinese corporation disregarded her cries for help. Instead, she said that what she actually received was her husband’s letter of termination.
Earlier in his own address, Comrade Ibrahim said the protesters gathered in solidarity with their fellow workers
He stated, “These individuals are coming to create ECOWAS, and we want to think that ECOWAS is for the West African Sub-region, and that it should be for the good of inhabitants of its member nations. However, we believe that they should not damage the welfare of our people in the process. When an embassy was being built, workers were represented by a union and their concerns were handled.We are here to safeguard the rights guaranteed by the law and to offer Nigerian employees a voice and a sense of dignity. We want the Chinese to be receptive to dialogue rather than directing us to the ECOWAS Secretariat.
“Chinese will not enslave us in our own country in the name of building ECOWAS Secretariat. Few days ago, the company took their workers to police station just because they were fighting for their rights. It took the intervention of NLC President and his team to get them out of the police custody.’’
Additionally, he charged several security employees with conspiring with the Chinese to dehumanize Nigerian workers in violation of established regulations.
“We learned that a worker died and that neither he nor receiving recompense was of any concern to them. Why does this have to go on? How long will these folks continue to labor like way before it is time to stop?
Comrade Stephen Itoro, Vice President of the NLC and Chairman of the Construction Workers Union, criticized the attitude of some employees in his speech for conspiring with the employer to betray their coworkers.
He urged the demonstrators to continue their fight to free their fellow employees and made a firm commitment that they would not back down until their demands were satisfied.