WAPCO - "Slave Camp"

"When I started work here 5 years ago I could see very clearly - now I couldn’t see very well, thanks to WAPCO".  These words, made by a WAPCO worker give a clear indication of condition of work in this "slave-camp". The working conditions are no better than most other factories. It follows the all too familiar pattern in Nigeria - more work, less pay.

"When I started work here 5 years ago I could see very clearly now I couldn’t see very well, thanks to WAPCO".

These words, made by a WAPCO worker give a clear indication of condition of work in this "slave-camp". The working conditions are no better than most other factories. It follows the all too familiar pattern -more work, less pay.

Put succinctly, the condition is horrible, and this is not hyperbole. The conditions are hard, very hard. At milling house and packaging plant where the cement is milled, packaged and bagged respectively workers overstrain themselves terribly, engaging in backbreaking toil. This harsh condition and extreme toil exerts intense pressure on the mental and nervous system. This reflects in the ragged and haggard appearance of workers.

By contrast, the managers and top executives continue to look fat, serene, and well fed- veritable parasites. The working hours are long, the pay is pitifully inadequate. Yet, under these conditions, the workers continue to create wealth for the use of factory owners and company executives. As a testimony, these parasites live in huge mansions and drive around in flashy, highly expensive cars.

Most workers in this company suffer various chronic diseases: lung and respiratory diseases, kidney and eye problems and a lot more. The brunt of these diseases and hazards are borne by long-time workers. The company does not observe adequate health and safety measures, leaving workers at the mercy of machine and harmful chemicals.

As expected accidents are the order of the day without commensurate provisions made for the victims. The sight of workers during and at the close of work presents a grim sight indeed, with most of them covered completely in cement. And most of these workers have been going through this for a period of 20 years. The pressure of unemployment and the ruthless drive for profit nourishes and preserves these conditions. The average life span of workers in this environment is 45 years. Those who live beyond this are like automatons.

Workers’ demand for pay rise is constantly rebuffed. The excuse is always-no money. Yet, in the midst of this "no money" situation workers were scandalized when a financial crisis rocked the company. The fallout of the crisis was that workers became aware of the gross financial misconduct among top management officers. One such incident was the charge of embezzlement levied against the immediate past management led by Mr. Ogunleye involving the staggering amount of N60 million. This made the new managing director refuse to assume appointment initially. Yet there was "no money" to effect pay rise for workers.

This financial mismanagement, coupled with the crisis of capitalism, has created a financial burden, which the capitalists are trying to off-load on the workers. Recently, the factory retrenched over 3, 000 workers, the largest since the company came into being over three decades ago, and yet further 1, 000 jobs are still being threatened.

Over the years, the factory management had adopted a policy of buying over the union leadership and frustrating those they cannot buy. A case in point was the Akinola led leadership that stood up for workers in the face of management’s hostility.

The union leadership must reflect the "new beginning" outlook of the present NLC leadership. Workers are not responsible for the crisis confronting capitalism and must not be made to bear the burden. Rank and file workers must put pressure on their union leadership. For this to happen, however, there must be greater internal democracy in the unions; workers must know how their unions are being run; the trade unions must be transformed into organs of struggle. The WAPCO Trade Union must fight against poverty wages, hostile working conditions, retrenchment, attack on workers rights, etc. This is the only way to win workers confidence and maintain the gains of the past.