Nigeria: Union busting activities at Dangote Pasta

Further to the yesterday’s appealfor solidarity, we are publishing an account of the anti-union activities at Dangote Pasta which led to the victimisation of the union organisers at the plant, including the firing of 200 workers who refused to leave the union.

Aliko Dangote is said to be the 51st richest man in the world; he is officially the richest black person alive. He is currently head of the government’s committee on the creation of jobs for Nigerians. However, the true face of this “prosperous businessman” is never revealed to the masses.

The mainstream media is totally in his pocket. Hardly anybody knows how he made his money – that is something the bourgeois media is not interested in. They are only interested in the extent of his wealth, his luxurious lifestyle, his houses, etc.

However, behind all this is a ruthless apparatus committed only to the draconian exploitation of the workers in the Dangote group of companies. This is the real source of his wealth.

It must be noted that in the entire groups of companies he owns, trade union rights are outlawed. Scores of workers have been sacked, injured, jailed, and some have “disappeared” in his group of companies for daring to join or form trade unions.

It has been well documented that where Dangote “acquires” a company the first thing he does is to disband the workers’ union if one exists in the factory.

We reproduce this account by one of the workers affected by the current attack on workers in Dangote Pasta. He is the branch president of the National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), Dangote Pasta branch.

NUFBTE has a track record of being one of the most principled workers’ union in Nigeria, with a record of several successful fight backs. Currently, the National leadership has continued to recognize the Dangote unit as part of the branch in spite of the victimization. And they have continued to insist that they will continue to struggle for the reinstatement of all the affected workers and a full reinstatement of workers’ unionism in Dangote.

All workers activists must continue to rally round this struggle, which is bound to be a turning point in the trade union situation in Nigeria. Read the appeal and send off protest letters please.

Account of the attack on Dangote Pasta Workers by the Branch Union President

On August 11, 2010, the National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), which Dangote Pasta belongs to, inaugurated the company’s chapter of the union after several years of struggle.

The struggle stated as far back as 2004. Due to inhuman treatment from the management, the workers decided to get unionized as a way of freeing ourselves from the oppression of the management. Then, the Filipinos were the ones in charge of production.

The eight-man executive that started this struggle was all sacked by management who did not want the workers to be unionized. The national union then took the matter to court. The union won the case and management was instructed by the court to reinstate the sacked Executive Committee members and pay them their outstanding benefits.

Management on their part agreed to pay all outstanding benefits to the eight union branch executive members but refused to reinstate them back to normal duty. The union on their part said that if the eight leaders could not be reinstated another Executive Committee would have to be elected and inaugurated. Both parties agreed and a date of inauguration was given to management.

The inauguration took place in the company premises with the attendance of the Dangote Group lawyer, NUFBTE’s lawyer, the Human Resource Manager, HRM, Mr. Idris Ali and some management staff. After the inauguration, documents were signed by both parties, management and the union.

Just two weeks after the election and inauguration of the union, on August 30, 2010, management hired some thugs to launch an attack on the union executive and registered union members. The branch executive committee members were beaten up as were some of the union members. We were asked to renounce our membership of the union under duress. Some renounced but the majority refused to renounce. They locked out all those who refused renounce.

We called the national union, who said that we should not be violent but to remain calm. After, two weeks of being locked out, the matter was resolved by our national union and we were asked to resume back to our work. Just three days later, the HRM, Mr. Idris Ali called to inform me that two hundred of the staff appointments has been terminated. When I asked him why, he said that is was because of “abandonment of duty”.

He addressed the staff and asked them to report to security to collect their letters and entitlements. Immediately, I informed the national union and they instructed us that the affected staff should not collect the letters and told us to remain peaceful and calm. The HRM did not include the names of the Executive Committee members. When I confronted him, he said management only recognized the executive committee members. I told him that by so doing, he only exposed our lives to danger. That there is no way, we can be inside working while the union members are outside.

Since then, all efforts by the union to resolve the issue have failed. Management did not honour any invitations. And up till date, we are yet to see any action by our union against the management.

Comrade Samuel Obuseh,

Branch chairman, NUFBTE, Dangote Pasta Workers