Dangote Refinery Turn Workers To Slave, Embarks On Sack Of Non-complying Workers
Dangote Refinery and Fertilizer plant, one of the subsidiaries of Africa’s largest conglomerate, Dangote Group has introduced stringent working conditions for its staff mid-way into their job in the company without requisite benefit.
In a memo (see documents below) signed by C. Mohan Kumar, the Director HAM & SP, dated 26th September, 2017 and addressed to ‘all refinery project site staff’, the company extended the work hour of all site workers by three hours and also added Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays to their working hours. Abusidiqu gathered that prior to the new working conditions, workers only worked Mondays to Fridays between the hours of 8am to 5pm.
“The construction site shall work on the basis of 12 hours shift from 7am -7pm, from Monday to Saturday. This will commence with effect from Monday, the 2nd October. This site shall be working on Sundays and public holidays too and staff will be arranged for work on Sundays and public holidays, by the respective HODs,” reads the memo.
To ensure compliance with the new condition, the company workers are mandated to sign an undertaking to work on a 12 hour shift which includes Saturdays and at night hours.
“Since the company goes into full construction mode, those who are interested in continuing to work with the company under the new terms and conditions of employment with effect from 1st October can indicate their interest to HAM department,” Mr. Kumar said.
The implication of this is that workers who hitherto worked between 8am and 5pm on Mondays to Fridays will now be working for 12 hours either during the day or at night depending on which shift they fall into. In addition, they are expected to work Saturdays and Sunday and even public holidays.
But while this new working condition was introduced, there was no form of increase in the salaries, neither did the company make available to them any benefit to compensate for the extension in the working hours. The company simply asked those who cannot comply with the new directive to seek for employment elsewhere.
Abusidiqu gathered that 10 of the workers were sacked in the first week of October following their refusal to embrace the new working conditions. The 10 workers reportedly refused to sign the undertaking committing them to work on a 12 hours shift and subsequently refused to report to work on the Saturday preceding the release of the new working conditions.
One of the workers who spoke to Abusidiqu on the condition of anonymity described the action of the company as a new form of slavery. He urged labour unions to halt the company’s deliberate effort at discouraging decent work and gradual enthronement of slave labour.
“We took this job understanding that we are going to be working for 5 days in a week, but from nowhere, the company extended our working hours and mandated us to sign undertaking to work even on weekends and public holidays. This wicked and barbaric and an attempt to introduce a new form of slavery in our work place.”
“Labour Unions should immediately come to our aid and take actions to ensure that this new form of slavery is not allowed to stand,” he said.
Abusidiqu recalls that the entire Dangote conglomerate is reputable for this kind of action to her workers. In February 2017, some workers of Dangote Cement Company, in Obajana, Kogi State, were forced out of the company’s premises with the management using anti-riot policemen to compel them to collect their termination letters and also handover company properties in their possession.
Many of the workers had reported to work on that fateful day only to meet fully armed mobile policemen all over the place.
“While still wondering what was going on, we were told that we have been sacked and the policemen forced us to collect the sack letters and hand over company properties before they forced us to leave. “Is this fair in this harsh economy? How can you sack someone just like that?” the affected worker asked.
Also in February 2017, staff of Dangote Cement Transport, converged on the company’s head in Lagos, to demand payment of their entitlements, which have accrued up to eight months after they were unjustly sacked from the company.
The sacked workers who were employed through the company’s Truck Ownership Scheme in 2015, described Dangote Cement Group as an “anti-poor” organization that exploits vulnerable people”.
Abubakar Ibrahim, Chairman of Forum of Dangote Cement Truck Officers, said: “We feel that our rights have been trampled upon and that what they should pay us now should be multiplied by the number of trucks we managed. It was specified in the offer letter given to us that we would manage one truck, but we ended up managing six.
“We were surprised at the manner in which we were sacked. Those who tried to resist were bullied. We want them to give us our trucks. Outstanding allowances and bonuses should also be paid.”
The Dangote group had also in October 2016, sacked 48 employees due to what it described as the “economic crisis” in the country.
The affected employees include 36 expatriates and 12 Nigerians who were disengaged from the group’s headquarters and subsidiary, Dangote Cement Plc. The sack was explained via a letter written by Chief Executive Officer, Aliko Dangote.
Efforts to get the company to react to the development proved abortive as the Group Head, Corporate Communications of the Dangote Group, Mr Chiejina Anthony and the spokesperson of Dangote Refinery and Fertilizer plant, Mr. Abubakar Dauda failed to provide any response despite promising to do so several weeks after they were contacted.