The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has accused the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) of aiding telecommunications giant, MTN Nigeria, to disobey extant Nigerian laws and international labour laws and convention which the country signed since 1960.
Labour is also accusing MTN Nigeria of subjecting Nigerian workers to untold harsh and unfriendly labour practices such as casualisation, disallowing unionisation among others.
It is also accusing MTN Nigeria of being one of the biggest threats to Nigeria’s security, putting the lives of Nigerian security agents at risk and funding their global operation with funds made from Nigeria, while subjecting Nigerian workers to untold hardship.
In a letter to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and signed by the President, Ayuba Wabba, the NLC said it was forced to picket the company’s offices across the country because of its clear violation of national and international labour laws especially ILO Conventions 87 and 98, and has denied its workers their fundamental rights at work which Nigeria ratified since 1960.
Wabba said it was unfortunate that the NCC that is supposed to be a regulatory agency statutorily charged with the dual role of creating an enabling environment for business operations as well as protecting consumers and workers has failed to play that role.
Wabba said: “It is perfidious that NCC sees its role only as that of protecting the telecoms infrastructure, even though none of them came under threat as alleged by MTN during our peaceful picket.
“The rush by NCC to report NLC to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) is both hypocritical and suspicious, but we do know that he who plays the piper, dictates the tune.
“NCC did not see anything wrong with hosting critical data outside Nigeria or with continual loss of jobs by Nigerians in spite of the unspeakable money made and repatriated by telecoms operators.
“It did not see anything wrong with the violation of Nigerian laws, labour laws or security breaches leading to the loss of lives of security personnel, not to talk of huge illicit financial flows as highlighted in the Thabo Mbeki Report which continue to undermine our national wellbeing (security).
“In our estimation, the greatest threat to Nigeria’s national security is not by Nigerian workers but the bullish and arrogant attitude of MTN and its co-travellers or collaborators like the NCC.
“Let NCC continue to promote this talk about MTN infrastructure constituting core critical national asset. We do not begrudge them. For us at the NLC, however, no asset can be more critical to Nigeria than Nigerians themselves.
“Accordingly, we wish to put NCC on notice that we will picket it the way we picketed MTN if it continues to discharge its duties breaching the law. Let it continue with its ‘Amebo’ instead of doing the work for which it is established.
“The NLC is a pan-Nigerian organisation which jealously guards our national interests. No one should blackmail it even though it may not have the wherewithal to organise or sponsor executives to foreign seminars or workshops every week!
“A perfunctory look at MTN’s global activities and earnings confirms our assertion that proceeds from MTN Nigeria is used to run the global MTN. Where therefore does this arrogance come from?”
NLC further stated: “We insist that companies, no matter how rich or powerful, must respect our leaders, and obey the laws of the land. We insist they must treat Nigerians fairly and decently, because clearly, Nigerian workers and Nigerians in general have been at the receiving end of the bad behavior of some transnationals in the telecoms sector. Enough is enough!
“Workers of Airtel, First Bank, Union Bank and many other companies were salvaged from slave labour by the NLC through this same process or action. MTN therefore, should not be given preferential treatment or consider itself to be above the law.
“The three-day picket represents the first step in the series of lawful actions we shall be taking against companies that act in breach of national and international labour laws as well as our national interest. We owe no one an apology for that. We would wish to let everyone know that we are committed to this operation. We have the will and the means to sustain it.”
The congress said further that “it similarly engages in other anti-labour practices such as casualisation for nearly all types of work, fixed- term contract work for Nigerian workers, worst forms of precarious work among others.
“It is on record that the NLC on several occasions protested to the MTN and government about these unwholesome practices without a reasonable response.
“October 7 last year during the World Decent Work Day marked a watershed in these protests as NLC briefly picketed their Maitama office, Abuja. In response to this action of the Congress, MTN reached out to Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA) which brokered a meeting. However, due to inexplicable reasons, MTN opted out of the negotiations to the chagrin and embarrassment of NECA.”