Thugs hired by GIG Logistics attacked a picketing by the National Union of Postal and Telecommunications Employees (NUPTE) in Lagos, on 24th February. Several officials and members of NUPTE were beaten up and had to be taken to hospital for treatment.
These included Comrade Jacob Eneji, organising secretary of the union and a member of the SWL. They were also dispossessed of their phones, tablets, laptops, and other items.
The picket was organised to protest terrible working conditions in the company and management’s stiff opposition to unionisation. Sixty of the workers who filled the NUPTE membership form were immediately sacked after the protest.
The struggle to organise GiGL has been on for sixteen months. NUPTE wrote letters to the company in November and December 2019 requesting for a meeting towards setting up the union branch. Workers in GiGL which NUPTE had reached out to wanted to join the union to fight for better pay and improvement of their terrible working conditions. But they were afraid, because of GiGL’s authoritarian management.
The company replied on 12th February 2020. In the letter signed by its legal officer, Lawal Idowu it said, “the company is not interested in participating in any trade union activities”, adding that it cannot be “compelled” to allow union activities on its premises. In response to NUPTE’s claim that workers welcomed the organising exercise, Idowu asked for “details of the employees”.
The union was reluctant to release these details, with the background earlier provided by the workers. Throughout 2020, it made several efforts to establish a conducive setting for recognition negotiations, while protecting the identity of hundreds of GiGL workers who expressed their enthusiasm to be unionised. All of these were rebuffed by the company.
GiGL describes itself as the “leading logistics service provider in Africa”, and has a staff strength of over 3,000 in Nigeria. It also has offices and partners in several countries such as Australia, Britain, China, Dubai, Ghana, and the United States, for delivering freight, haulage, warehousing and distributing, e-commerce and courier services.
The company which is an offshoot of the “God is Good” transport company makes millions in profits annually. But its workers are poorly paid and overworked in unsafe working conditions. That is why it is so sternly anti-union.
The struggle at hand to reinstate the sacked workers and win union recognition in the company is not one that should be left to NUPTE alone to fight. An injury to one is an injury to all. Nigeria Labour Congress, which NUPTE is affiliated to should rise up in defence of the union to wage this struggle.
SWL will support a nationwide and international campaign in defence of NUPTE and for the freedom of association of GiGL workers. Workers united cannot be defeated.
by Lionel AKPOYIVO