Workers of the WEMPCO Group of Company have carried out a peaceful protect in Lagos over the non-payment of their 10 months’ salary and allowances.
The demonstration which took place along the popular WEMPCO road, Ogba, Lagos Wednesday, featured scores of aggrieved workers of the company who claimed they are being maltreated by the Chinese employers in their own country.
The angry protesters were organised bearing banners with different inscriptions:
“Pay all outstanding workers’ salaries,” Remit all outstanding workers’ pension contributions,” “Implement 2018 NJIC agreement without delay,” “Pay workers annual gratuity: remit cooperative contributions.” “Pay leave allowance,” “Pay out-of-station allowance.”
Chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Lagos State, Comrade Sessi Funmi Agnes at the event encouraged the workers, assuring them they would not suffer in vain in their father land.
“Speaker of the House of Assembly, Leader of the House Committees, Chairman of Commerce and Industry on Public Companies would hear about this injustice. We are expecting the press to beam this situation live to show Nigerians what these foreigners in connivance with some of our people are doing to the workers in their own country,” she said, adding that, “It is not acceptable what foreigners are doing to our people, using them like slaves.
“At least for 24 hours they will not be ready to sit down for any regulation. Do you know what happened yesterday? I still have another issue, an Indian man stabbed a Nigerian man. I can show you the picture. So we won’t allow the issue of this WEMPCO to get to that point.
“Let them also feel the heat and pain of what the workers are facing. They must do the bidding of the workers, if they will not do it, NLC will put chain and padlock on this company and I want to see who will remove it. I would have allowed Nigerians to air their own annoyance.
“Like what happened during the #EndSARS demonstration, if Nigerians had listened, the demonstration wouldn’t have happened, that was why the youths came out, but unlike the youths that had no leader for their protests, which allowed the hoodlums to hijack it, this one is well organised and the NLC wants to take the leadership. We are not disturbing the public peace, no hoodlum can take over, we are not hoodlums, we are workers who are being deprived,” she said.
One of the aggrieved workers, Yusuf Jimoh said he served the company for nine years before being upgraded from a casual staff and since the confirmation of his appointment; he has not seen any salary increment.
“I am one of the workers; I served them as a casual worker for nine years before they were able to confirm me in 2013. Since then they have never increased my salary.
“As I’m talking to you my wife is not with me, my children are with my mum, I took them to my mum.
“The Chinese employers have been saying there is nothing we can do, that we can go anywhere we want to go. I am asking President Buhari and Mr. Sanwo-Olu to come to our aid. Let them pay my entitlements and I will leave to start my life elsewhere. All they are making is not by their efforts, it is by the sweat of the workers,” he lamented.
Lawal Olatunde is another worker at WEMPCO who is not happy about the treatment meted at the workers of the company.
“I work with the WEMPCO Group. We were asked to go home since last year October, they promised they would pay us but to our surprise when COVID-19 pandemic broke, they used that as an opportunity to stop our payment.
“So, no housing allowance, no salary, even workers were transferred from one state to the other without outstation allowance,” he lamented, adding that, “Our cooperative contribution was taken from our salary but not remitted to the cooperative account.
“Our pension is not remitted to our pension account. According to what is happening we don’t know why they said we should stay at home. If they want to do redundancy, they should do it and pay us off.
“Personally as I am, my wife is the one catering for the family, my children are at home, they are out of school, to eat is difficult, house rent is difficult. Bills for power and waste disposal are now problems. If I am paid all my money I will still work but they can’t be owing me and ask me to still be working, the government should intervene,” he pleaded.
Union Chairman at WEMPCO Group, Comrade Taiwo Oluwale at the demonstration however demanded that the owners of the company should honour a signed agreement put in place since 2018.
“The agreement signed in 2018 has not been implemented and we are not happy about it. They take money from us monthly but not remitted. We don’t know what they have been doing with the money. Since September, some have been home, some joined in March and nothing has been paid them, this is not right,” he said.
Oluwale added that the company pays N14,000 transport allowance which is not regular. “They only pay N14,000 transport allowance which is not regular, we cannot say if the N14,000 they are going to pay next is for September or August because we can’t keep the record again because it is not regular.
“They deduct our pension for almost three years, they didn’t remit it and the law says they should remit within seven days after deducting. We have lost many lives, some are on sick bed, some have divorced due to financial issues, we cannot be good fathers to our children, that is why we are crying out because some people are taking our sweat for their own wealth, that’s why we are crying out that enough is enough.
“Some of our companies are doing monthly housing scheme, the company is not remitting the money. They transferred some workers to Ogun State without transfer allowance. No outstation allowance, no benefit, instead they are intimidating workers. Presently we don’t know our fate, you are the one that says we should go home and nothing paid. We want the whole world to hear what is going on here,” he concluded.
*Pictures and additional reports by Esther Olaifa