Precarious Work: AUTOBATE Pickets Coscharis

marching to the Coscharis office to form the picket line. Photo credit: SWL

The Automobile Boatyards Transport Equipment and Allied Senior Staff Association (AUTOBATE) picketed the Coscharis Group Headquarter in Lagos on Thursday 18 2019. Members of the union were joined by activists from the Socialist Workers & Youth League and Workbond International Network (WIN) at the protest, where they submitted a petition to the Coscharis management, against anti- labour practises in its establishment.

Coscharis Group is a conglomerate with subsidiary companies such as Coscharis Motors and Sixt mobility. Majorly, Coscharis Motors is into automobile assemblage and sales while Sixt mobility is into car rental. The situation and conditions of workers in the conglomerate as a whole is nothing short of precarious.

The companies under Coscharis Group engage in workforce casualization. Coscharis Motors for example employs staff on 6-month contract. But at the expiration of the 6 months, the company neither makes such workers employment nor disengage them. Rather they are left with no choice but to accept yet another 6-month contract in perpetuity at the pain of entering the unemployment market.

Recently, a set of workers thus affected had continued to work under such uncertain and unfair conditions for four years. But towards the end of the fourth year, Coscharis Group sacked these workers and re-employed them under Sixt mobility, a subsidiary of the conglomerate as casual workers. The Sixt mobility then outsourced the same workers to their previous company as casual worker!

Apart from these condemnable conditions of employment, there are poor in-plant health facilities in the company. Factory accidents also occur several times at the workplace, with the workers not being compensated. In the cases where they are at all compensated, these fall short of the provisions of the Employees Compensation Act 2010. Further, the workers are made to put in long hours beyond their normal working time, with no overtime benefits paid. And they hardly get to enjoy annual leave.

Workers in Coscharis Group are subjected to multiple unfair condition. To keep on getting away with this anti-labour regime, the management has done everything possible, to prevent the workers from joining a trade union.

The workers understand that if they organise as a union, they can better improve their working conditions and combat exploitation by the bosses. Seeing that the workers are resolute to join AUTOBATE, management resorted to coercion such as threat to their employment among others to suppress the workers interest and inclination to join a trade union.

The management disregarded each of AUTOBATE letters informing the management of the workers’ expressed interest to join the union. AUTOBATE dragged the Coscharis Group at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, invoking the Trade Union Act. And it was agreed at the ministry that AUTOBATE should communicate a date to inaugurate a branch in the company to both Coscharis Group and the ministry.

But subsequent to that agreement, Coscharis group refused to accept all the letters sent to the firm to that effect. The security personnel were given orders not to allow anyone or any material from AUTOBATE entrance into the firm’s premises. The company’s representative mentioned at the meeting with the ministry said that management is not averse to trade unionism. But their character to the workers and the union says otherwise.

The Group Head of Management Services, when reacting to the issues raised by AUTOBATE claimed that the establishment pays the workers well. But he failed to make a coherent response when asked why management was apprehensive about unionization in the company, if indeed the workers are fairly treated.

activists on the picket line at the Coscharis office. Photo credit: SWL

Labour activists from AUTOBATE, SWL and WIN formed a picket line at the main entrance of the Coscharis group head office, chanting solidarity songs. And AUTOBATE unionization campaign leaflets were shared with workers outside the premises of the firm. They received these with enthusiasm.

Eventually a representative of the management received the letter of petition. In the petition letter it was stated that by 1 August, AUTOBATE will be at the firm to inaugurate a union branch in the firm.

The union is aware that management wants to sack workers who have been convincing their colleagues on the need to boldly seize the bull by the horns and dare the repressive regime in the company to join the union. It aims to douse the enthusiasm of all the workers. This will be contrary to the right of the workers to belong to a union of their choice as enshrined in Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And we will equally resist this with mass mobilisation.

AUTOBATE is calling on the Trade Union Congress (TUC), IndustriAll Global Union and our sister affiliates in the trade federations in solidarity, as the union fights on to break the haughty power of the bosses and Coscharis practice of precarious work, as we mobilise for the 1st of August.

by Lai BROWN



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