Nigerian casual workers at Indian firm protest slave-like working conditions

The casual workers at Midland Rolling Mills, an Indian-owned company based in Abeokuta, on Tuesday protested their poor work conditions.

The workers said they were being treated like slaves.

The protesters gathered in front of the company’s gates along Abeokuta-Lagos road, with placards variously captioned: “Our Demand: Upgrade in all allowances,” “Implement Annual productivity package for all workers,” “No more casual; casual should be upgraded to trainee,” “Approve staff workers unionism,” “Implement night allowance,” and “Prompt medical benefit.”

PREMIUM TIMES reports that as the protest mounted, the General Manager, Bibhas Bhanjdeo, who was on his way to the office, on sighting the aggrieved workers, immediately made a U-turn and zoomed off in his car.

The protesters, led by Olawale Joe, told journalists they embarked on the peaceful protest and strike following the failure of the management to address their plights after several pleas.

Mr. Joe said some of the workers had lost their fingers to machines but were ignored by management. He pointed out Kunle Benjamin, a maimed worker with three missing fingers.

The administrative and personnel manager of the company, Daniel Tejohun, who later arrived the scene with armed policemen, addressed the workers.

He said they had the right to protest but appealed to them to avoid violence. He called for dialogue with the management to find lasting solution to the problem.

‘”We have heard your grievances. If we don’t dialogue, we can’t have a way forward. Please, pick representatives and let us dialogue,” Mr. Tejohun said

After about an hour, and after tempers had calmed down, the personnel manager called the runaway general manager, who returned to meet with five representatives and address journalists.

Mr. Bhanjdeo explained that the eleven demands of the workers were already being attended to.

He said the delay in implementation was due to the absence of the company’s Managing Director, Mahindra Singh, who travelled abroad but is expected to return soon.

He said all demands would be addressed effectively within the next two weeks.

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