The Steel and Engineering Workers’ Union of Nigeria (SEWUN) picketed the Nexans’ Kabelmetal factory in Lagos on Friday 10 January 2003 to demand the reinstatement of Rufus Olusesan, a member of the Democratic Socialist Movement, who was sacked unjustly by the company management in December 2002.
The picketing started by 7am at the premises of Kabelmetal in Ikeja. The SEWUN activists arrived at the company gate in a fully loaded bus and six other cars with union flags, placards and banners. The workers of the company who were supposed to go on morning shift were effectively mobilized to join in the picketing. The workers were very glad to join the action. They also blamed the whole crisis itself on their local union leaders, who wrote a letter to management implicitly recommending two of their members, namely Rufus Olusesan and Lawson Mgetta, for sacking based on their active role in opposing the fraudulent and unilateral deduction of 1,000 naira (US$ 7.50) from each worker’s November salary.
Workers set up new union structures
One of the highpoints of the action was the dissolution of the local union by the congress (general meeting) of workers and the immediate composition of a new set of executives under the chairmanship of Rufus Olusesan, the victimized comrade. All the workers unanimously adopted him as the new chairman amidst a lot of cheers. It is important to note that the General Secretary of the dissolved executive, who wanted to sneak into the premises through the second gate, was fished out and seriously embarrassed before managing to run away on a motorcycle.
The management at around 10:00 am called for dialogue with the national leadership of SEWUN, who went to the meeting with three of the newly elected local officers. The meeting lasted for about three hours, during which the workers maintained the picket line, with protest songs and with solidarity messages from various organisations like DSM, NCP, NANS, CIU, NLC.
At the end of the meeting, the National President of SEWUN read out the resolution of the meeting. The resolution stated:
That Rufus Olusesan should consider himself to be on leave and not sacked, with all entitlements that follows.
The union agreed to suspend the industrial action till 14th January 2003 when the company’s managing director is expected back into the country.
The union still maintains its demands as follows:
- Unconditional and immediate reinstatement of Rufus Olusesan
- Refund of the 1,000 naira arbitrarily deducted from workers’ salary
- Immediate removal of the Deputy Managing Director, Muyiwa Owotumi