Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Construction workers protest non-payment of salaries, verbal sacking

Some former workers with a construction company on the Lagos Island, Deux Project, have protested against the non-payment of their salaries. They added that the firm terminated their appointments through telephone calls.The workers ─ Samuel Ajimuda, Murtala Yahaya, James Philip and Otolurin Taiwo ─ alleged that the company also invited riot policemen to chase them away to avoid paying them their entitlements.
They threatened to take legal action against the firm if the situation was not addressed.
Ajimuda, who is married with a child, said he could no longer feed his family, adding that his daughter had stopped going to school.
The 31-year-old, who claimed to have been working for Deux Project for four years, said he was on a salary of N29, 400 per month.
He said, “I have been working with the firm for the past four years. We discovered that although the company was paying its top staff well, it was not paying the junior workers and things were becoming hard for us.
“When we met with the human resources manager, he told us that the company would pay us in due time.
“But last December, we met with the chief financial officer that we needed money, even if it was half of our salary, to celebrate Christmas with our families. He, however, said the chairman told him that he had no money to pay us.”
He said upon resumption to work in January, they were surprised when the company announced a 50 per cent salary cut.
It was learnt that the company allegedly told the workers that they might not be paid their arrears due to the financial condition of the company.
Ajimuda said they were told that the arrears had been written off.
He said they decided to protest last Wednesday by turning off the company’s lighting system and blocking a part of the main road.
Taiwo, a carpenter, who had worked for six years, said some of the management staff appealed to them that they would receive a bank alert on their phones before that day ran out.
He said, “I was checking my phone for the alert, unfortunately, nothing came throughout that day.
“The following day, we returned to the company and saw riot policemen at the gate. They said we should wait outside.”
The management was said to have later paid the aggrieved workers one month of the arrears.
The company’s human resources manager was alleged to have called the workers on the telephone to tell them that their services would no longer be required.
“We told him it was only one month salary arrear that we were paid, and he said the chairman said when he had money, maybe he would pay the remaining arrears.
“We only want them to pay our money and entitlements,” Philip said.
Yahaya, who was the storekeeper before his dismissal, said he was owed only one month arrear because he had earlier joined another set of workers in 2015 to stage a protest.
He added that workers involved in the protest were sacked, but he was lucky to have been spared at the time.
“We are no longer interested in their job, let them pay us,” he said.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Spurgeon Ataene, who promised to write the company’s office on behalf of the former workers, said it was wrong for their appointment to be terminated verbally.
He said, “These men had been working on empty stomachs and they decided to stage a peaceful protest to get their salaries paid, but the company sent a team of policemen against them.
“Instead of paying their full salaries, the company quickly rushed and paid them just one month of their five to six months arrears and went ahead to verbally terminate their jobs.
“While we believe that every organisation has the power to hire and fire, it should be in accordance with labour laws. They don’t have the right to abuse and maltreat Nigerian workers. The Federal Government should investigate the company’s activities and sanction them appropriately.”
When contacted, the company’s Human Resources Manager, identified only as Tayo, said he was not authorised to comment. He promised to get in touch with the “right person”, but later declined to do so.
He said, “The person has also refused to talk and said I should not send his contact.”
Our correspondent, however, sent him a message on the incident, which he had yet to reply to as of the time of filing this report.