Leke Success (L), Augustine Mbavough, and Josiah Kato
By Linda Eroke
National Union of Hotel and Personal Service Workers (HPSW) has alleged a plan by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) to extort money from workers for the purpose of biometric registration of hotel workers across the country.
The project, according to the NTDC, is designed to ensure safety and security of users of hospitality outfits, ensure that only genuine and credible people work in the tourism and hospitality industry, check the movement of staff to avoid fraudulent characters within the industry, and maintain a viable database to encourage direct foreign investment in the industry.
The union, while commending the efforts of the NTDC to reposition the industry as a veritable tool for economic development, said it will not allow members to be surcharged through any programme no matter how laudable its objectives.
In a joint statement issued by the National President and General Secretary, Mr. Leke Success and Augustine Mbavough, the union described the planned deduction N1,000 from workers’ salaries as totally unacceptable, stating that it was a clear violation of the extant labour laws.
It charged the agency to approach the Federal Government to provide the needed funds to execute the project rather than extort money from workers who are not responsible for the crime in the industry.
“Our attention has been drawn to a publication in the Guardian Newspapers of 11th January, 2013 titled ‘NTDC to Embark on Biometric Registration of Hotel Workers’.
“Although we are not against this project but as a responsible workers organisation duly registered under appropriate Nigeria labour laws and with jurisdiction over workers in the tourism and hospitality industry will not allow our members to be surcharged through any programme no matter how laudable its objectives when it has not been sufficiently carried along and certain fundamental issues have not been properly addressed.
“The planned or the proposed payment of N1,000 per hotel workers towards funding this project is totally unacceptable to the union. No employer in the industry should deduct any amount from our members’ wages towards this project. Charging hotel workers to fund this project will amount to extortion which we cannot explain to our members,” the union stated.
Speaking further, the union emphasised that the issue of crime in the industry should be addressed holistically through a stakeholders’ conference to be facilitated by NTDC with the support of the federal ministry of labour, hotel owners and workers representatives.
It noted that crimes perpetuated in the industry are not carried out by hotel workers but by guests or their accomplices who hide within such facility to carry out these crimes most especially in non-unionised establishments.
“The database NTDC should be concerned about is that of guests and not of staff. Workers employed in the industry provided all the needed information to their respective employers before they were employed however; no such data of guests are available to the various hotels. There should be a standard form of identification for all guests like international passport, national identity card or national driver license that cannot be easily forged.
“Similarly, all cruise line operators, luggage carriers, airport taxi operators (who first come in contact with foreign or local guests) should have their data registered for proper monitoring of their activities. Majority of workers at our various Airports are casual workers that will be difficult to trace in case of any infraction of the law. The employment of these set of people should be regularised and unionised for proper control and accountability”.
According to the union, “members have always support their management to put in place appropriate machinery to monitor activities of guests but which are absent in non-unionised hotels because the motivation to do this has not been provided,” adding that “for the project to make the desired impact in checking crimes, the NTDC should make it compulsory for all tourism and hospitality facilities across the country to be unionised”.
It further called on the agency to embark on a massive campaign to sensitise and enlighten the people on the objectives of the project as done before the commencement of the SIM Card registration by service providers in the telecommunication industry.