Workers organised by the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) shutdown the Corporate Affairs Corporation (CAC) headquarters in Abuja in the third week of February. Their protest, which was supported by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was against anti-worker and anti-women policies, as well as corruption of the CAC management.
Management had transferred women whose husbands also worked in the public agency to offices outside Abuja. As Comrade Ayuba Wabba, the NLC president pointed out at the picket: “All the female workers with their husbands working here, the Registrar-General transferred them away and left their husbands here, causing problem in their various homes.”
Union leaders have also been transferred arbitrarily, while activist rank-and-file workers are regularly victimised. The AUPCTRE branch chair, Comrade Ibrahim Makirfi, further pointed out that staff promotion has been delayed, undermining motivation to work.
The CAC Registrar-General is not only high-handed with workers. He also appears to have a corrupt taste for money. Workers have drawn public attention to the fact that he claims to have used the whooping amount of N35m to fumigate the agency’s head office and N25m simply to paint its annexe at Wuse Zone 5.
While the management has denied any corrupt practice, it has not been able to explain how so much money was needed for these projects. But workers say these are just a few examples of how he channels monies that could have been used for workers welfare into his pocket.
The Registrar-General hoped to shut out dissenting voices by playing the divide and rule card. The agency had dragged AUPCTRE to court earlier, to secure a judgment that would kick the union out of the workplace. The Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government Owned Companies (SSASCGOC), which is affiliated to the Trade Union Congress (NLC) was declared as the sole union allowed to organise.
This contributed significantly to contention between the two unions initially, when the protest took place. But eventually, the unions took a united stand. A few days after the protest, the two trade union federations stated that both AUPCTRE and SSASCGOC “exist to pursue and fight for the protection and defence of workers’ interests”.
This was in a letter signed by Comrade Wabba for NLC and Comrade Hassan Anka for the TUC. They equally argued that both unions “have the right to exist and operate in the Corporate Affairs Commission” and expressed a united condemnation and rejection of “the punitive transfers of AUPCTRE executives in CAC”.
This is a sterling example for trade unions in all situations where there have been divisive conflicts. We have seen divisions in different ways between unions in several sectors, particularly education and health. The bosses are the ones who benefit from this. And they often stir divisions, while hiding behind the shadows.
In unity lies our strength. There might be immediately conflicting interests. But these are secondary, and we have to try to rise above them as we have seen in the CAC struggle. It is the bosses that we must face in struggle. They will not give us our rights without a fight.
AUPCTRE had written several letters to the CAC management before the picketing, without receiving any response, according to Comrade Ben Anthony, the AUPCTRE national president. Management’s respect for industrial relations ethics stops when it clearly clashes with their interests.
Industrial relations developed as a concept and practice after World War II. It is used as a means of making workers see themselves as partners in progress with the employers. Workers have however been able to also use collective bargaining and social dialogue (which are elements of industrial and labour relations) to win some concessions.
But we must never forget that it is still a terrain of class struggle, and one which the bosses are ever ready to ditch in favour of unilateralism when they think they can exploit and oppress us better by doing that. In our hands is placed a power greater than the hoarded gold of the bosses. That power requires our unity in strikes and on the picket line.
Thus, SWL salutes workers at the CAC for their re-established unity, and encourages them to fight until victory is fully won.
by Muda OGIDAN