13 June 2006
The much awaited picketing of PARCO Enterprises and two of other workplaces notorious for anti-worker practices was eventually held, though only partially, on Wednesday, May 31, 2006 after several postponements by the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Anti-Casualisation Team.
The turnout of workers from the 29 affiliate unions of the NLC was very low. The reasons for this range from decline in enthusiasm a result of the postponements of the proposed picketing umpteen times to the lack of commitment to genuine working class struggles by leaders of most of the affiliate unions etc.
The three Molue (big commercial) buses hired for the picketing were only half filled as at 10:30am when we left the NLC Lagos secretariat to commence the exercise. However, due to the low turn out of workers, the Chairman of the NLC Anti- Casualisation Committee, Bright Anokwuru announced the change of event from “Picketing” to “Warning Notice,” and the inclusion of both Oceanic Bank and Nigerchin on the proposed exercise. This was with a proposed route: from PARCO at Apapa – Oceanic Bank at Victoria Island – Nigerchin in Ikeja.
About 8 of the victimised PARCO workers, 5 CDWR comrades, 13 members of NUATE, about 55 members of NUSDE and 5 from the NLC Anti-Casualisation Team were present for the exercise. While at the PARCO Head Office we sang various solidarity songs, as the NLC leaflet and the special PARCO leaflet produced by the CDWR were being distributed to workers at Eleganza Plaza. All the placards on display (condemning casualisation, calling for workers’ unity, and stating our demands) were produced by the CDWR. The CDWR banner condemning casualisation and stating our demands was raised as well as that of the victimised PARCO workers. As we climbed up the stairs leading to the PARCO corporate head office, we discovered that its entry and exit doors were under lock and key. All efforts to get to the management staff were fruitless.
The Chairman of NLC Anti-Casualisation Team decided that we should proceed to Oceanic Bank. At Oceanic Bank we sang solidarity songs, displayed our banners and placards, and made efforts to sell our CDWR pamphlet on Casualisation and Socialist Democracy. One of the management staff finally came out to discuss with labour leaders, after which we proceeded to Nigerchin in Ikeja.
At Nigerchin we met the factory gates locked. All efforts to see the management staff proved abortive, as even security operatives were out of sight. We continued to sing solidarity songs, about 20 minutes later a police detective drove by to spy on our activities and left some minutes later. As we were preparing to leave, a police pick-up van arrived with 8 armed police officers. Some labour leaders went to meet with them. While discussing we gathered that the police had been informed by the Nigerchin management that we had set the factory on fire and they were demanding that they should shoot at sight to disperse us from the vicinity.
In the course of the discussion Bright Anokwuru told the police that an incident had occurred at the factory some minutes before their arrival, which resulted in the loss of the fingers of a factory worker. The policemen around were so visibly shaken (or pretended to be) by the report that they started making efforts to enter the premises. They promised to get to the root of the matter soonest. The labour leader used the opportunity to lash out at the managements of foreign companies and emphasise the need to make them respect labour laws, and if possible to make them pay for all their evil deeds. All the police officers present wholly agreed with or accepted the labour leader’s statement.
We sold a copy of the CDWR pamphlet on Casualisation. Before we called it a day, Anokwuru gave a vote of thanks to all that participated in the exercise and promised that the next event would be bigger and better. The President and Secretary General of National Union of Shops and Distributive Employees (NUSDE) expressed their appreciation to CDWR for our intervention and all our efforts in making sure that the picketing exercise was brought back to life and made a success.
Report by Emmanuel Adikwu, CDWR.