▪︎Beg Buhari to intervene
Workers in Transcorp Hilton hotel Abuja, on Monday, protested against the decision of the management of the hotel to pay only twenty percent of the entitlements of workers that will be laid off soon.
Addressing the angry workers at the Staff Canteen, the Branch Chairman of the National Union of Hotel Workers, Comrade Chinonso Ogbonnaya, said while the management reserved the right to hire and fire, they should do it in line with the provisions of the organisation’s condition of service.
He declared that the management and the workers have been negotiating on the decision to downsize the workforce since July following the dip in the revenue of the hotel as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He declared that the latest protest was provoked by the decision of the management last Friday to sack 50 percent of the workers and pay them only 20 percent of their entitlements.
“It is not a thing caused by this organization. It is a global issue. We are not the one that caused COVID; neither is it the management or the owners that caused COVID-19. But as it is now, the staff of this organization are being punished for an offence they never committed.
“We know that even in advanced nations, people were given palliatives. This is a globally-recognised organization, we appealed to the organization from inception to give our members little palliatives but they never did.
“Throughout this period, we were receiving 50 per cent of our salary because there was a salary cut. But what brought all of us here today, is that as soon as the FG announced the ease of lockdown and the re-opening of the international and local airspace, the management called us to say they wanted to downsize to the tune of 80 per cent of the workforce and they could only pay 80 per cent of the accrued benefits of those that would be affected.
“We have been on this since July. They’ve taken us to places. We no longer join the staff bus because they refused us the use of the staff bus. People who are on night schedules, they refused to pay them night allowances. They now allow one person to do the job of eight persons in a day and yet, the person cannot get his pay.
“We know employers have the right to hire and fire and many of us join this company through a process. And there is also a process to follow to leave.
“At the same time, we have a condition of service, which regulates all our activities here. If you want to leave, you have a particular amount of money based on the CBA. And we have asked them, if you want to downsize, because of COVID, pay workers what belongs to them and they are saying they will not.
“Unfortunately, on Friday, since the matter is even at the Ministry which is being handled by the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, we have not even concluded there, despite the fact they have connived with the Ministry to short-change the workers.
“They came up on Friday to say they are keeping 50 per cent of the staff and sending the other 50 per cent away. That is what brought us out today.
“Some of the people you see here have worked for 25, 20 and 15 years and management wants to throw them out without paying them their benefits. It has gotten to our knowledge that this whole thing is no longer COVID-19 but they want to hide under COVID-19 to retrench innocent Nigerians who have put in their youthful age.
“As a union, we are not saying don’t retrench, we are saying, pay those that will be affected what belongs to them. So, the death of one of us yesterday, is what brought us out today.
“As a union we are doing everything humanly possible to plead with the workers to calm down because they can no longer take it any longer. The management has done what we never expected them to do.
“This is the first time we are experiencing this here. We gather here this morning because we don’t want to cause any problems. They are saying they will not go back to work till all of their needs are met.”
Also speaking, the Branch Secretary of the workers union, Comrade Friday Ochayi called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene and ensure the workers are not denied their entitlements.
“We use this avenue to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to please listen to the cry of Nigerian workers and their rights. I can tell you that the President is not aware of what is happening here.
“Our revenue since three month has been doing very well. We almost made N1 billion and they are not giving us what we ought to get.
“Mr President, we voted you in because of your antecedent in the fight against corruption. We are Nigerian workers; we can’t be thrown to the streets without our benefits.
“Mr President, we know you can do it, we are your children too,” Comrade Ochai said.
Some of the placards carried by the protesting workers read: “Pay us our full benefits even if you want to sack all of us”; “Tony Elumelu you can’t go away with our money” and “Tony Elumelu pay us our 100% benefits, we are not slaves.”
Efforts to get the reaction of the hotel management were not successful as they reneged on an initial arrangement to speak with journalists after keeping them waiting for almost one hour.
They promised to reach out to the media anytime they are ready to respond to the agitation of the workers.