MTN, ALTON decry destruction of property by labour
By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria
MTN Nigeria and the umbrella body of telcos in the country, the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) have decried the resort of violence, destruction of property and injury to its workers by members of the oraganised labour under the guise of picketing the telco over alleged anti-labour practices.
Reacting to the action of the organised labour, Tobechukwu Okigbo, Corporate Relations Executive at MTN Nigeria, said: “Today’s violence and the needless destruction of property is deeply saddening. As always our primary concern is the safety and well-being of our employees, some of whom were attacked by supposed NLC operatives and have sustained injuries.
“We do not prevent our employees from associating amongst themselves as they deem fit and owe our employees the obligation to ensure they are not compelled to join associations. MTN supports the freedom of association as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.
“All workers have rights that should be protected. We work hard to not only ensure that this is done but also to ensure that our company is a Great Place to Work. We will continue to champion our peoples’ rights, whether they are part of a union or not and work hard to minimise disruptions in service to our customers.”
Also reacting, the Chairman of ALTON, Engr Gbenga Adebayo, warned of grave security consequences further vandalism of telecoms infrastructure would unleash on the polity.
He said: “News of the picketing of the offices and disruption of operations of one of our members has been brought to our attention. ALTON is very concerned about this unfortunate development.
“Members of ALTON are law-abiding organizations who are committed to best practices in all areas including labour related matters. As responsible corporate citizens, our members have always provided platforms for their employees to associate freely in accordance with the law and the constitution.
“Employees of our members are able to join or form associations and unions if they so desire. However, the practice is that membership of any associations and unions are voluntary. In line with fundamental human rights regarding freedom of association as guaranteed by the constitution, individuals must not be compelled to join an association or union if they do not choose to do so.”
Adebayo said picketing of such nature as reported, leading to injury to persons and damage to properties, creates an unfortunate situation where employees are coerced to join unions and associations without respect for their individual rights of voluntary association.
He warned that damage to any telecom facilities will lead to the disruption of critical national security and economic services which will expose innocent citizens to great danger.
He said: “Attempts have been made to disrupt the network operations of some of our members through the shut down and vandalism of critical network facilities. The implication of such disruption will lead to severe poor quality of services with attendant national security implications and far reaching implications on other services that are dependent on the telecommunications industry.
“We hereby strongly request government and its law enforcement agencies to intervene expeditiously, otherwise we will advise our members to consider preventive shut down in order to avoid further damage to network facilities. We trust parties will respect each other’s constitutional rights in the interest of our nation Nigeria.”
Labour had picketed MTN office in Lagos and did same simultaneously across the telco’s offices in the country in protest against its alleged anti-workers policies.
It accused the telco, the largest carrier in the country, of casualisation of workers, non-unionisation of workers and homophobic behaviour to the Nigerian workers among others.
The group comprised the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), the National Union of Postal and Telecommunications Employees (NUPTE), Lagos zone, the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) and the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW).
NLC president, Ayuba Wabba alleged that 80 per cent of workers on MTN’s payroll are casual labourers despite the company being the biggest telecommunication firm in Africa.
Wabba said MTN is the worst employer of labour as it has violated all labour laws in the country.
Wabba said: "The workers have no right to associate; no right to have union, social protection denied workers as it hires and fires almost after three months and after series of letters written to them which they disregard, we have no choice than to protest."
He promised to sustain the protest until exploitation by MTN is stopped. He said labour will continue to resist casualisation of workers in Nigeria because it can't be done in South Africa or anywhere the telco has operation let alone in a country where it hauls the highest profit year in year out.
He said: "We have engaged them severally in the past and if you can remember, we picketed them in Abuja on October 7 which was the decent work day and after meetings held, they still went ahead to do what they used to do. They are capitalist, not ready for dialogue as workers are treated as slaves, without benefit of employment.
"No respect for our laws and since they don't respect our laws, they don't deserve to be respected and we will continue to challenge them until decency of workers is achieved.
“We must say no to the exploitation of the country by them through their illegal charges and non-declaration of tax where they are milking the country dry."