Stories by Adedeji Adeyemi Fakorede
Analysts have criticised the picketing of MTN offices across the country by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), saying such act is capable of hindering Nigeria’s economic growth as it may deny the nation flow of foreign investment.
The analysts, who also condemned NLC’s picketing, said the destruction of MTN assets, violence and threats by the labour union during the exercise violated an important section of the International Labour Organization (ILO) ethics of which the NLC is a member.
Reacting to the issue veteran radio presenter, Jimi Disu argued that such act by the NLC negates the current government’s clamour for increased foreign direct investment in the country.
Disu said: “As far as I am concerned, they (NLC) went on a fund-raising exercise. Now it didn’t just end there, if you are going to picket a company let’s just say for all intents and purposes, does it then mean that you must go on a destroying mission? You went in there and destroyed their properties. Here we are, our existence economically is somewhat premised on what we call foreign investment, now is this how you are going to treat companies that come?”
Other industry analysts said under the ILO principles concerning the right to strike , section 8.1 which focuses on picketing clearly states:
“Taking part in picketing and firmly but peacefully inciting other workers to keep away from their workplace cannot be considered unlawful. The case is different, however, when picketing is accompanied by violence or coercion of non-strikers in an attempt to interfere with their freedom to work; such acts constitute criminal offences in many countries.
“The requirement that strike pickets can only be set up near an enterprise does not infringe the principles of freedom of association (ibid., paras. 586 and 587).”
Founded in 1919, the ILO’s main goal is to bring together governments, employers and workers of its member states to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.
It will be recalled that officials of the NLC last Monday picketed MTN Nigeria offices in some states as the protest became violent and disorganized, thus leading to vanadalization of properties within MTN premises.
In a statement on Monday, the telco firm said some of its doors and gates were destroyed, several staff of the company were manhandled and in the Ikoyi head office, the MTN flag was lowered while the NLC flag hoisted in its place.
It added that critical national infrastructures across the country were breached and attempts were made to seriously compromise them “like turning off the independent power plants at the Ojota switch station, Lagos.”
The violence that characterized the three-day picketing of MTN Nigeria by the labour union also attracted condemnation from several quarters including the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON).
Tony Ojobo, the spokesman of the NCC in a statement said that the NCC activated the MOU with NSCDC to protect the switch stations and BTSs belonging to MTN and other telecom operators.
Ojobo further said, “NCC has also briefed the security agencies on developments particularly the implications of the attempt to shut down the Ojota switch station. A collapse of the telecommunications grid is likely if these attacks on MTN and other telecom facilities are not abated.”
Reiterating MTN’s position on unionism , its Corporate Relations Executive, Tobechukwu Okigbo, said: “We do not prevent our employees from associating amongst themselves as they deem fit and owe our employees the obligation to ensure they are not compelled to join associations. MTN supports the freedom of association as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.
“All workers have rights that should be protected. We work hard to not only ensure that this is done but also to ensure that our company is a Great Place to Work. We will continue to champion our peoples’ rights, whether they are part of a union or not and work hard to minimise disruptions in service to our customers.”