The Federation of Informal Workers Organisations in Nigeria (FIWON) has spoken out against Walmart’s plans to establish retail outlets in Nigeria. In an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos state, the FIWON General Secretary, Comrade Gbenga Komolafe, the federation pointed out that Walmart muscles out smaller retailers wherever it is situated and pays slave-wages to the workers it employs.
FIWON’s position was against the background of the visit of Ms Shelley Broader, the Walmart the President and Chief Executive Officer of Walmart Incorporated Europe, Middle East, Africa and Canada, to Governor Ambode. This is part of the thrust of the retail giant seeking a market foothold in Nigeria.
Walmart is the largest private sector employer in the world. It is owned by the richest family in the United States, the Waltons, who collectively are worth $149bn. The corporation pays abysmally low wages. Working conditions are as well terrible in Walmart stores and workers are made to run irregular schedules. The corporation also is strongly anti-union, because it realises that when workers are organised they will be better equipped to resist their enslavement by Walmart.
It is likely that the Lagos state government will welcome Walmart, despite the legitimate fears expressed by FIWON. The federation has thus called on the governor to “at least….conduct a comprehensive impact assessment of what will be the effect on local retail business if Walmart enters Lagos”, just as “the Public Advocate of New York did two years ago when faced with the pressure to allow Walmart enter New York”.
The trade union movement as a whole and particularly the shop and distributive employees union (NUSDE) should be ready to “welcome” Walmart with struggle, to ensure the rights and welfare of workers are respected, including the right to belong to a trade union. This will be part of the global fightback against Walmart and indeed, the oppressive exploitation of workers by the bosses who bestride the globe.