OrderPaperToday – Casualisation and outsourcing of work force is a growing practice in Nigerian companies or businesses as many employers see it as a means of cutting costs in order to maximise profits.

Outsourcing and casualisation of staff has become one of the most hotly debated topics in Nigeria and globally by labour and trade unions as the practice which started off with non-essential staff has now been elevated to positions that are permanent in nature. Sadly, with employee vulnerability, high level of unemployment and poverty, many Nigerians do not see themselves as having a choice other than to accept available jobs on employers’ conditions.

According to Mr. Rasak Bamidele of the Department of Sociology and Psychology, Fountain University, Osogbo, Osun State, “Casualisation is labour exploitation which ranges from poor salary, wages and salary arrears; lack of training, promotion and motivation; job dissatisfaction and dehumanisation of employees.”

In the past, the National Assembly raised several motions accusing multinationals and international oil companies (IOCs) of flagrant violation of labour laws.

On its part, the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity has been deficient in protecting the rights of the Nigerian worker through the enforcement of the existing Labour Act.

However, with the recent introduction of the Labour Act amendment bill 2019 by the House of Representatives, many Nigerian workers can now have renewed hope of liberation from unfair work conditions as the lacuna in the current law which employers of labour rely on to exploit innocent Nigerians under the guise of casualisation and outsourcing of labour force might just be over.

The loophole exploited by employers lies in section 7 (1) of the Labour Act 2004 which states that “an employer shall give to his employee (not later than 3 months after the commencement of employment) a written statement, specifying, among other things, the rate of wages; the method 2 of calculation, the manner of payment and the periodicity of payment.”

Section 7(6) of the Labour Act discountenances the need for a written statement where this particular has already been specified in a written contract.”

To address this loophole, the Labour Act amendment bill entitled “A bill for an Act to amend the Labour Act to prohibit and criminalise casualisation of workers after six months of engagement by employers in Nigeria, outsourcing employment in core areas of operation and other related matters,” which scaled through second reading in the House of Representatives last month, seeks to create additional three (3) new sections.

The amendment sponsored by Mr. Raji Wale (APC, Lagos) covers regularisation, disengagement with benefits after a period of six months from date of employment and prohibition of casualisation of employment.

It is intended to abolish the obnoxious practice of casualisation of workers by creating a new section eight (8) which provides that an employer has a period of not less than six (6) months of engaging a worker to regularise his or her appointment to a full permanent staff.

The amendment also recommends that in the event of disengagement of a worker after a period of six (6) months from the date of first engagement without regularisation, the worker shall be entitled to full salary, allowance and other benefits.

The principal Act is being amended by creating section eight (8) 1 which states that “every worker in Nigeria engaged or employed by and has remained in such employment for a period of not less than six months shall have his employment or engagement regularised by the employer as a full and permanent staff of such employer with all its accompanying entitlements.”

Section eight (8) 2 further states that any employer who disengages a worker after a period of six months from the date of first engagement without regularising the worker’s employment, shall pay full salary and all allowances and entitlements due to a permanent staff for six months to the worker as if he has been a permanent staff in the employment of the employee for six months immediately preceding the date of disengagement. This is subject to whether the worker has been found liable of any criminal act involving fraud resulting to financial loss to the company.

Meanwhile, section twenty three (23) states that failure to comply with the provisions of subsections (1) and (2) above is an offence and the employer, if an individual, is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding two million naira or to be imprisoned for a period of two years.

Additional amendment further suggests thus: “(b) in the case of a corporate body, shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding two million naira or to imprisonment for a period of two years for each director of the company or to both such fine and imprisonment as the court may deem fit without prejudice to the right of the worker to his full entitlements as provided under this section”.

On outsourcing of jobs, the bill seeks to prohibit the practice by proposing a new section nine (9) from the principal Act to now state thus: “It is an offence for an employer to pay another person, whether corporate or natural person, for services rendered to its workers. The punishment for noncompliance to this provision when passed would attract conviction and imprisonment or a fine of two million naira.

“In the case of a corporate body, it shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding two million naira or to imprisonment for a period of two years for each director of the company or to both, such fine and imprisonment as the court may deem fit without prejudice to the right of the worker to his full entitlements as provided under this section.”

When is a worker said to be ‘regular’?

A worker can be said to be a regular staff when he or she is being employed or having a job, or in a state of being employed and numerated for work done with full benefits associated with such positions, according to the sponsor of the bill, Mr. Raji Wale.

It is expected that the bill will get support from members of trade unions in the country with the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) throwing its weight behind it.

The president of NUPENG, Mr. Williams Eniredonana Akporeha, commended the National Assembly for the process initiated so far to liberate Nigerian workers from the “bondage of outsourcing and casualisation”.

In a telephone chat with OrderPaperNG, the NUPENG president said the union was excited with the development.

According to him, “With this legislative intervention that has passed through second reading, NUPENG, as a custodian of blue-collar workers in the oil and gas sector, is particularly excited with a profound sense of appreciation to our current set of lawmakers for the bill that essentially seeks to prohibit engagement of casual workers beyond six months.

“We also discovered that Section 8 of the bill accommodates, as being proposed as a clause to the Act, that every worker shall enjoy full employment benefits as a permanent staff after six months of engagement and that any employer who disengages a worker after a period of six months from the date of first engagement without regularising the worker’s employment shall at the date of disengagement, pay to the worker full salary, allowances and entitlements due to a permanent staff for two months provided the worker has not been found liable of any criminal act involving fraud resulting to financial loss to the company, amongst other things.

“This vicious phenomenon called worker’s casualisation has regrettably accentuated the increasing levels of crimes and social dislocations Nigeria is currently experiencing and has particularly caused our union and members lots of pains, setbacks, anguish and agonies for decades.

“Unfortunately, some exploitative and manipulative multinational companies and their local collaborators in the oil and gas industry have over the years being exploiting gaps in our Labour laws to flippantly treat Nigerian oil and gas workers with disdain and indecent working conditions.”

Pledging the support of the union, he added, “NUPENG, therefore, urges the National Assembly leadership to count on our support at any time for the success of this bill whether at the public hearing stage or any other time which they may deem necessary. It is our firm belief and expectation that this bill will be speedily passed and meet presidential assent before the end of second quarter of 2020.”

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