How businesses enslave its employees

How businesses enslave its employees
November 20 17:16 2018

By Benjamin Orisemeke

Hauwa Suleiman landed a job with a newspaper house in Abuja as a trainee reporter June of 2017. She had hoped that she will use the job as a platform to further develop herself.

But alas; nine months later, she was relieved of her appointment after she protested the non-payment of the stipend promised her by the organisation.

Also, Efemena Omonigho was filled with joy after he secured a job with one of the numerous hotels in the nation’s capital after three years of searching for a job. Three months after, he is wondering whether he made the right choice by accepting the job. Omonigho told ThinkersNews that the kind of treatment the management of the hotel metes out to staff is dehumanising.

According to him, one of the head of department in the hotel was slapped by the general manager over a minor disagreement.

“Aside that, staffs are continuously been abused with the GM telling everybody that there are thousands out there who are looking for this job.”

Adaora Nwoye left secondary school two years ago but has not been able to further her education due to her family’s financial situation. And instead of just idling away at home, she decided to get a job with a school in Jikwoyi, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

While the school is located in Phase 3 in Jikwoyi, Adaora, lives at Phase 1 of the town which takes about 10 minutes on an ‘okada’ and about 20 minutes walk on foot. And for her to be able to keep something aside from her N8, 000 salary as an assistant teacher at the end of the month, she is forced to walk from her house in Phase 1 to Phase 3 where the school is located.

Six months later, her story is not different from that of Omonigho and Hauwa.

Adaora narrated her plight to our correspondent.

“When I was employed, I was told my closing time is 4 pm, but as time went on, I started closing by 5 pm before I knew it became 6 pm. There have been times where I had to close by 7 pm because the mother of one of the pupil did not come on time to take the child home.

“I cried when I got home but there is nothing I can do about it for now,” she added.

Taking advantage of the system

In all of these cases one thing is obvious; the management of these businesses has taken advantage of the dire situation of Nigeria’s unemployment crisis to oppress their staff.

Official data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) says the country’s unemployment figures now stand at 18.8 million.

According to Adaora, she has to endure the various forms of maltreatment by the management of the school. “And the head teacher will always tell any of the teachers that “there are so many people waiting to take your place once you leave. You should be thankful that you have a job.”

Adaora continued: “I do everything that a regular teacher does. If a teacher is unavailable for the day I teach the pupils. This is in addition to my duties as a teaching assistant.”

She told our correspondent that she dare not mention her experience at home or even think of quitting the job because her family needs the money.

ThinkersNews checks revealed that a teacher can only take excuse to absent once, any other time an excuse is taken from work N500 is deducted from their salary. Also, late coming even if it is for one minute attracts N500 surcharge.

“Already, N2, 000 has been deducted from my salary for the month of October. As I speak with you I am yet to get the small amount that is left in of salary,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Government not doing enough

For Rights activist, John Musa, the exploitation of workers by businesses is now at an alarming proportion. According to him, “a week will not end without him having to handle a case of workers’ exploitation by businesses.”

He noted that the dire economic situation which has resulted to high rate of unemployment in the country.

Nigeria came out of the recession woods in the third quarter of 2017 after it entered the dungeon of recession in 2016, after the economy recorded three quarters of negative growth.

Analysts have argued that the Labour Ministry and in a part, the workers union have failed in their role to protect workers from the unending exploitation of workers.

Mr. Musa is the co-coordinator of Transvocate Africa, a Non-Governmental Organisation committed to the protection of workers’ rights.

He told ThinkersNews that rather than think of how to protest the maltreatment of workers across the country, “Labour would rather protest for minimum wage to be increased.

“A lot of these things are happening in work places. Employees are treated unfairly because employers feel these employees are easily replaceable.

“They intimidate and bully them. I have heard cases where employers go as far as beating employees, refusing to pay them their wages or salary and nobody is holding them responsible.

“I feel the government is not doing enough in terms of sensitising these employees, helping them know their rights under the labour laws.

“A lot of these employees don’t even know where to go to when they are being unfairly treated in their work place”.

However, public affairs analyst, James Emenike, opined that the situation will only get worse. As according to him, “is it those that get their salaries and seat in air condition offices that you want to go on monitoring,” he asked rhetorically.

Emenike, noted that except the regulatory bodies responsible for labour issues rise up to the occasion, and do their jobs, business would continue on the same part.

Musa stressed that “The Labour Ministry’s role should be to prevent exploitation of workers, but with what is happening it is clear that the ministry cares less about workers welfare.

“There are labour laws that protect against such and if such laws exit, then they should be properly implemented”, he said.

Whether the government and organised labour heeds these wise counsels only time will tell.