The Nigerian labour market is awash with numerous troubles and because work is instrumental to man’s livelihood, people go out to work under the worst of conditions. Sometime ago, there was a stampede in National stadia across the country which led to the death of many youths in a bid to clinch a job offer to sustain life. They died while trying to keep the very life they lost. Foreign companies have long cashed in on our desperation to treat our citizens recklessly.
Casual labour is irregular employment or a part-time labour, including the labour of workers whose normal employment consist of series of short time jobs. The increase in casualisation in Nigeria is pathetic and this is attributed to government policy of outsourcing. This resulted in the abolition of some jobs and services in the public sector, and the concessioning of same to private sector organizations which, in turn, engage workers to perform the jobs often on temporary basis with uncertain wages and conditions, and without job security. This, according to the government, is to promote public-private partnership which in turn is expected to induce efficiency in the economy. The use of casual labour allows employers greater flexibility in hiring and firing and adjusting to swings in production. For the employer also, it is less costly to employ casual labour and thereby enables him to maximise profits.
There are basically three types of casual labour:
1. Those employed directly by the company or organization
2. Those engaged by labour brokers
3. Those engaged by independent contractors.
A visit to any industrial area in any part of Nigeria today will reveal a large number of applicants queuing as early as 6:30 a.m. at factory gates waiting to be employed as casual labour on daily and weekly basis as the employers, mostly foreigners, are only looking for cheap labour.
THE LEGAL STATUS OF A CASUAL WORKER
Is a casual worker regarded as an employee within the context of the law?
Section 9 (1) ( c) of the Labour Act 1974 defines contract of employment as any agreement, whether oral or written, express or implied, whereby one person agrees to employ another as a worker and that other person agrees to serve the employer as a worker. The act describe a worker thus:
“Any person who has entered into or works under a contract with an employer, whether the contract is for manual labour or clerical work, or is expressed or implied, or oral or written, and whether it is a contract of service or a contract personally to execute any work or labour”
The Employment Compensation Act 2004 extends the definition of an employee to persons employed on a casual basis. According to the Act, an employee includes a person employed under apprenticeship or on casual basis.
A casual labourer, by the nature of his employment, hardly enters into a written contract with his employer. The mere fact that such contracts are not documented does not, however, exclude casual labour worker from the benefit and protection conferred on workers under the Act.
The following acts of an employer shall constitute offences under the Labour Act:
– An employed shall be guilty of an offence under the Act where he neglects or ill-treats any worker whom he has contracted to employ in Nigeria or elsewhere.
– Any person who employs a woman without granting her maternity rights under sections 54, 55 and 56 of the Act shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one month.
About the Writer: Evans Ufeli is a lawyer and the author of acclaimed novel, ‘Without Face’. He is also an Alumni member of the Writers Bureau, Manchester, a highly sought-after conference speaker with a passion for the concept of change. He lives in Victoria Island, Lagos. You can contact him via Facebook: Evans Ufeli, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @Evansufeli and Phone: 08037712353. He blogs atwww.ethicsafrica4u.wordpress.com.