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Unless Africa unites, we cannot be liberated economically – Joseph Montisetse

Joseph Montisetse

Joseph Montisetse, is the National President, National Union of Mine- Workers in South Africa, which is the biggest Union in the Mining Sector in South Africa has called for Unity in the African regions as the only panacea to economic development.

Can you tell us your experience, since you came to Nigeria?

Yes, as President of Union, coming to Nigeria through Abuja to Owerri, my experience is that it’s a very good country, based on the fact that it has massive natural resources, oil and gas, but what I like most is the film industry which has developed to become the second after Hollywood but started in 1992 that shows that Nigerians are very industrious. But again, the land scape in term of Agricultural setup. I think it is a land that is blessed with rainfall and so on, it is a good land for Agricultural farming.

In terms of labour Activities, how will you rate Nigerian Trade. Union Movement, as regards fighting for the good of the common people, compare to what you have In South Attica. based on you! relationship with Nigerians so far?

You know as I was coming, there was a threat of a National Strike, which is a weapon that is used by workers to liberate themselves from oppression. I can say that Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa. I don’t know the salary of the people especially the low paid workers as compared to the low paid workers in South Africa, what is encouraging to me is that i have heard the comrade talk about Minimum wage. we have a minimum wage in the Congress of South Africa Trade Union, which is R 3500 for the lowest paid workers, here we are referring to worker that are working in sectors such as Security, domestic workers etc. I can say that once you hear trade unions speaking about minimum wage, you must know, that Union is a revolutionary force and it stands for the right of workers.

in South Africa, we know especially in all of Africa. when you talk about Trade Unionism in terms-of been very active. of course, you look at South Africa. what Is the force her-behind your articulated and vibrancy with regards to Trade Unionism?

South African origin of Trade Unionism comes from the Communist party of South Africa which was formed in 1921, by the white people that came from Europe to work in mines of South Africa and other industries. in South Africa, Trade Unions were informed by the Marxist-Leninist ideology, which means that they fought. and been powered by the Ideology of Marx, to understand the right of workers thoroughly, especially the leaders of the Trade Union, it is no wonder that you see the unions in their shape today.

What has been your relationship with CCESSA all these past. years as much ls said about you, which means there must be a long-term relationship between you and is organization?

We are all members of BM (Building and Wood-Worker’s International), which is a unique International Trade union on Building and Construction, that is where I met with CCESSA. We served there at the international platform and at the Regional Level and as you know, as Africans being there, we have to lobby each other, that’s how we developed a friendship and also a relationship. Based on that fact, Nigeria and South Africa are contesting for the economic power of the Continent, so it is mostly important for us to relate with each other, but the President of CCESSA is a man of Justice, a man of Peace and he is approachable. hence our relationship.

For the past one or two years, we have been hearing of several killings of Nigerians in South Africa. What has been the reaction of the Trade Unions, considering the relationship of South Africans and Nigerians, especially in Trade Union movement?

Thank you very much, let me say that in my speech here I explained that there is a mentality of xenophobia to the people of the South not only South Africa whereby there is no much cooperation even from South Region of Africa itself. If you are from Botswana, Swaziland, for you to visit across, you need more scrutiny of your traveling documents unlike in the ECOWAS and the Eastern Africa. S0 the killing of Nigerians is a shame to us as a Trade Union Movement, we belong to COSATO – Congress of South African Trade Unions. it is not only Nigerians that had been killed in this xenophobia attacks, the Somalians has also been part of the problems so also the Zimbabweans as well as other Nations, and what is disturbing here more is that there are more white people who are coming from abroad. who don’t have document ‘s but because they are whites. they are unidentified and the mind-set of the people is that a white man cannot be wrong, we have spoken much about this, and as a Pan-Africanist myself, believing in the Policy of Kwame Nkrumah and Muammar AI Gadhafi of Libya, that Africans should unite, I can only conclude that it is a shame to us as a Trade Union Movement in South Africa. but we are speaking hard about it.

In your own-country, South African, how have you been sensitizing your people to remain united with other African Countries?

In actual fact. everywhere I deliver my speech, whether at the National Executive Committee. or at the rally of workers and so on, because I subscribe to the unity of Africa, i do mass education to our people to understand that, unless African unites. we cannot be liberated economically. Am telling you the West and the East (China) also are taking advantage of our division in the continent. So, when Zimbabwe is imposed some sanctions. people of South Africa and Nigeria will be laughing, and whenever Tanzania is imposed some sanctions, we will laugh again. But if united under one President and Governors of States there is no way any country will be imposing sanctions, because we will be centralized and integrated, so that will close all the loop holes. that is the kind of liberation that we need as Africans.

The Nigeria Mining Sector, despite our abundance resources ls actually crawling In development so to say, what do you think South Africa has gotten right that Nigeria Is not getting right In the Mining Sector?

Well. in the Mining Sector in South Africa, we have multi-national cooperation which came to South Africa because of the resources. Such as Platinum, Gold and other things. Initially, South African economy was based on Mining. the Economy has just been diversified now, but the issue here is that Multi-National Cooperative Companies are there, and the Production from the mining makes South Africa big in Mining because it translates into export to other Countries. We have argued to the government that we have to start manufacturing, especially that South Africa is part of the BRICS country. What are we benefitting. because the BRICS countries are benefitting from taking our Natural Resources? Our Benefit must include taking our Children to China and India to go and learn Manufacturing of telephones. radios and other technological components so that we can industrialize Africa.

What do you  think Nigeria should fix to get its mining Industry up and running, to become a major contributor to the Nation?

Nigeria needs to have the right engineers (Mining Engineers) and the right skills in the mining industry. It needs to start partnering with Governments in Mining, like Botswana. so that the government can take care of the resources that had been abuse by the private Sectors in Mining. Nigeria also must start to make sure that whatever is mined in the country must not all be exported in unfinished form, but must start viable manufacturing Company in the Country.

What advice do you have for Construction workers in Nigeria, looking at how you operate in South Africa and things we can learn from your experiences in South Africa?

I can say that my fellow workers in Nigeria must fight for infrastructural development. The fighting spirit of Trade Union is not only centered on worker’s right at their working place, but we have to look abroad. It is right that we have good roads from Abuja to Owerri. If not, we have to take to the Street to say “where are the funds voted to be used in construction of the road”. When I was reading an Oxfam report about Nigeria, they said N21 Trillion has been stolen since 1965 till 2005, which they said is the size of the budget of America in 2016, and these funds where stolen by the officials that were in the Government. China has a law that says if you steal from the poor, you are a traitor and your punishment will be death sentence. I think in Africa we must make it punishable such that anyone that is corrupt, be it a Minister of the Government, he must be sanctioned with a very tough punishment because these people are stealing from the poor and making development very slow.

This article was originally published in the Nigeria Construction Digest Vol 1 No. 6 July 2019.

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AFRICAN UNIONS IN THE CONSTRUCTION AND ALLIED INDUSTRIES NETWORK ON BUSINESS AGENDA IN AFRICA

Comrade Tony Egbule (CCESSA Assistant General Secretary (AGS), Abuja)

China and Chinese Companies have become the major investors in Africa today. With China committing over 60 billion Dollars investment to Africa, they have become the major player in almost the entire sectors of the African Economy. For the construction sector, Chinese bilateral agreements with countries in Africa geared towards helping develop infrastructures which the continent is in dare need of, make Governments at different levels enter into bilateral agreements with little or no inputs from workers’ union. This commitment hampers job security and good working conditions for indigenous workers. Concerned about this development, Building and Wood Workers

International (BWI) organized an Africa Network on Chinese Multi-National Companies (MNCs) in Durban, South Africa from 26th November to 1st December 2017 as a follow up to the 2nd edition held on the 10th – 12th August. 2016 at Protea Parktonian Hotel, Brainfontain Johannesburg, to address some of the critical issues bothering on organizing Chinese Multinational Companies. The Construction and Civil Engineering Senior Staff Association (CCESSA) was represented by the Assistant General Secretary- Comrade Tony Egbule,

The programme, which was sponsored by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, was to ‘enlighten the delegates, as experience and information from different countries were shared among participants. Other than Africa and Middle East Regions, representatives from Europe and South America also shared their experiences.

China undeniably, has come with a long-term agenda in Africa. While this is so, they are keen unfortunately, on shifting labour force and products from China to Africa. Surprisingly, African leaders on the other hand are merely focused on the short-term interest, on getting the Chinese to help develop their countries’, infrastructure as well

as other areas of investment without considering the long-term implications of each agreement and the consequences on the unemployment rate attendant to it. As it is true that China is fast becoming Africa’s most visible partner in the pursuit of development, the onus is on the continent’s managers, government, as well as the unions, to engage these Chinese companies in a manner that will guarantee the protection of indigenous workers. No doubt. every country is challenged with unemployment, but the influx of Chinese has exacerbated this challenge in Africa. The displacement of the local workforce has become of great concern ‘

Despite the fact that BWI affiliates had engaged some of the Chinese MNCs and recorded some victories, solved some problems and disputes and even signed some collective agreements; the challenges are still huge. The decent work deficits is alarming, as workers’ rights are violated, social security is not covered, there is no or less skill transferred, health and safety standards are ignored. unions are busted and national labour laws are grossly violated.

The Network strategy is to engage the government and Chinese MNCs. For the two to take decent work and workers’ rights as central element of its decisions and agreements.

During discussion at the conference. It was obvious that the unions must place on the front burner the difficulties they face in organizing and recruiting members in Chinese companies. The unions also need to be open to interaction to galvanize members’ experiences and provide information on the existing Chinese companies involved in their respective sectors and countries, as well as share the level of engagement they have achieved and the strategies they used.

 On drawing out strategic plan for 2018 and beyond; Regional action plan 2018 and beyond were considered and key events planning and new strategies on organizing and bargaining were adopted.

The programme dovetailed into the 4th BWI World Congress held at the International Conference Center, Durban South Africa. with all BWI affiliate representatives in attendance where CCESSA representatives were led by the National President Comrade Isaac Egbugara, The General Secretary Comrade Ezekhumhe Otaru George, Woman Coordinator- Esther Asabe Ahmadu, youth leader – Emmanuel Douglas and Assistant General Secretary – Tony Egbule.

precarious work2

CHALLENGES OF ORGANIZED LABOUR ON “PRECARIOUS WORK” ARRANGEMENT

Precarious work and non-standard forms of employment seem to constitute great challenge to labour unions across the globe. Organized labour believe strongly that this class of employment lacks all forms of social protection and thus need to be taken addressed.

But what is precarious work and what are the characteristics? Arne L. Kallerg of University of North Carolina (2014) described the concept of precarious work (or precariousness in work), which is found in both formal and informal sectors of the economies, as work that departs from the norm of standard work (i.e., secure employment with employer; working full-time, year round; working on the employers’ premises under his or her supervision; enjoying extensive statutory benefits and entitlements; and having the expectation of being employed indefinitely).

Precarious work falls below socially accepted, normative standards by which workers have certain rights and employment protections and bear the risks associated with economic life. Arne identified the terms used to describe precarious work to include:

  • Contingent work
  • Non-standard work
  • Non regular work
  • A typical work
  • Market-mediated work arrangements
  • Alternative work arrangement
  • Nontraditional employment relation
  • Alternative work arrangement
  • Nontraditional employment relation
  • Flexibility staffing arrangement or work practices
  • Vulnerable work
  • Disposable work
  • New forms of employment

Major types of precarious work Include:
. Temporary work
– Direct hire on temporary labour contracts for fixed or limited term or fixed task
– Hiring via temporary employment agencies or labour workers 
– On call/daily hire work
-Contract work
– Outsourcing functions/ activities to other companies (on-site or off-site)
-Independent contractors
-Involuntary part-time work

Precarious work encompasses:
– Insecure  unstable and uncertain job
– Jobs with limited economic benefits
– Jobs with limited economic benefits
– Jobs with limited statutory. entitlements
– Jobs with little potential for advancement
– Jobs that expose the worker to dangerous and hazardous conditions.

Given the foregoing, it is believed that the extent to which particular employment relations might be precarious depends on the labour market institutions and welfare systems of particular countries (www.uchicago.edu) it is in consideration of the high level of exposure inherent in precarious work that the Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) and its affiliates as well as representatives of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES)  Foundation met in Lomé Togo sometimes last year to brainstorm on the )  possibility of organizing and servicing precarious workers to improve their working conditions in Construction, Wood and Forestry sectors.

In view of the relationship between precarious work and Contracts and Agency Labour (CAL). Joseph Toe. Who represented the international Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Africa, the global voice of the world working people, allocated some time discussing the challenges of Contracts and Agency Labour (CAL) which employment relationships are increasingly being replaced by commercial relationships, with all risks being transferred from employer to the workers. As a consequence, he said many hard-won gains, such as social protection or anti-discrimination rules, are lost or considerably diluted with the stroke of a pen.

According Joseph Toe, International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mines and General Workers’ Unions ICEM described CAL as many forms of precarious work, including temporary contract and fixed-term employment, agency work, bogus self-employment, individual contracts, seasonal work, zero hours contracts, on call / daily hire and day labour.

Outsourcing and sub-contracting also falls into the ICEM‘s meaning of CAL. In some cases, individual workers are contracted out. In other cases, entire groups of workers are transferred to a separate company, where they do the same work for inferior conditions. Many of these enterprises are even specifically set up for this purpose.  catering only to one company and, in some cases, even operating under the same roof and under the control of the same management team.

The ICEM has come across many examples of companies that exploit legal loopholes. increasingly keen as they are to reduce their employment obligations. These tactics have included:

  •  Employment of workers through an endless series of short-term contracts that may lapse for short periods before the next contract begins. allowing companies to avoid legislative requirements to make temporary workers permanent after a period of time. in North America, workers employed in such ways have been dubbed ‘permatemps’
    Use of abusively long probationary periods
  • Trainee programmes and apprenticeships that include no educational component.
  • So called ‘seasonal workers’ who are employed all year round.
  • Creation of fake agencies or fake sub—contractors, established by the user enterprise to avoid obligations to workers.
  • Workers who become union members or activists, or voice concerns such as on health and safety issues, often do not have their contracts renewed. and unorganlsed workers are ‘ brought ln to place them.

Problems caused ICEM

Participants at the many national. regional and global CAL conferences organised by the ICEM have highlighted numerous problems experienced by CAL workers. Ranging from employment insecurity and inferior salaries, pension rights issues and working time problems, to major health and safety problems, as well as brutal or abusive treatment.

The ICEM CAL campaign

The ICEM’s CAL campaign, which organises action and activities to address 3 different aspects of CAL – the legal aspect, the company aspect and the trade union aspect – provides not only assistance and solidarity for unions dealing with CAL at the national level. but also works to promote improved protections and better CAL regulations at the international level.

High on the ICEM’s agenda is facilitating the exchange of trade union strategies and best practice. including through various ICEM publications. which are available in several languages. These include:

  • CAL country studies
  • Information leaflets
  • Quarterly CAL newsletters
  • A video documentary
  • Power Point presentations
  • International surveys on precarious work
  • A “Short Negotiators Guide”
  • A longer “CAL Manual”

All of this, and more. can be found on this web-site: CAL ICEM

CAL workers commonly receive conditions and benefits that are inferior to those of permanent workers. They frequently do not receive health, maternity or holiday benefits, and are often denied sick leave. In addition, most precarious workers receive (often much) lower wages, and do not usually have access to training or career advancement opportunities. At the same time. enormous pressure is put on CAL workers to accept absolute flexibility. CAL workers are asked to be constantly available for work and to accept changes in their assignments.

CAL workers commonly receive conditions and benefits that are inferior to those of permanent workers. They frequently do not receive health, maternity or holiday benefits, and are often denied sick leave. In addition, most precarious workers receive (often much) lower wages, and do not usually have access to training or career advancement opportunities. At the same time. enormous pressure is put on CAL workers to accept absolute flexibility. CAL workers are asked to be constantly available for work and to accept changes in their assignments or functions at any time. Due to the insecure nature of their employment, CAL workers are often afraid of joining or forming a trade union. Precarious work is. as such, often deliberately used as a way to deter union organisation. This, coupled with the fact that CAL jobs are often reclassified to ensure that the workers are legally ineligible for membership in a user enterprise union, means that CAL has a very serious and detrimental impact on freedom of association.

The transition from permanent to precarious work also means that unions tend to have less bargaining power. undermining wage and other negotiations. Trade unions are also confronted with the fact that there are multiple employer entities to deal with when subcontracting or agency work is involved, and the identity of the real employer is often unclear. Furthermore, the fact that workers with different employment status work side-by-side but on different terms and conditions often creates conditions of fear and hostility between permanent and CAL workers.

In his delivery he stated that when workers are employed with some group having condition as a permanent worker and others as temporary workers, there is already by that creation a rivalry problem. He added that subletting has become a problem in all various aspect of work.

The problem of unions not knowing who to discuss with when there is crisis. as the workers are termed the responsibility of recruiting agents by the company because they were outsourced. He added that the unions find it difficult to negotiate or discuss with the companies which makes the workers feel that there was no need to belong to unions as they cannot protect their interest.

He stated however that at the ILO level, the issue of precarious workers has been placed on the front burner. as recommendation has been made to tackle the problem such as the recommendation 198.

According to him. Africa has become an Eldorado of precarious work.

 He emphasized the need for enforcement of the law and those saddled with the responsibility of enforcing the law to be independent. He emphasized that what was needed is a political will to confront the problem of precarious employment in Africa.

On the part of the unions. he said effort must be made to unionize precarious workers, and that the unions must also be united to deal with precarious work problems

By our correspondent.

Note: This article was originally published in The Nigerian Construction Digest Vol 1 No.5 May 2018. All images /pictures are from www.google.com