NITEL to sack 1,500 workers?

10 Mar 2009

According to Nigerian paper Daily Trust, former telecoms monopoly Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL) plans to lay off 1,500 employees, representing half of its current workforce. The report states that the decision was reached at a management meeting in Abuja last week, and that the affected workers will be mostly auxiliary staff, including drivers and messengers.

Chairman of the National Association of Telecommunications Employees (NATE), Charles Amankwe, said the union’s position is that the telco should not downsize until they have paid workers their salaries. Amankwe, said: ‘Our management are threatening to downsize by about 50% because they said they do not have the money to pay the workers, but we told them we are not going to accept that and we are not going to open the company’s gate. If they want to downsize, then let them pay the arrears first. Now the downsizing is likely they are trying to pick out those who are championing the strike, those they consider as trouble makers and send them away’.

NITEL employees have been on strike since January over non-payment of arrears of five-year salaries, as agreed by a labour and technical committee set up by the federal government during the partial privatisation of NITEL in 2006. Since then the telco’s initial 500,000 fixed lines in service have dropped to about 45,000, its workforce has declined from 12,000 to just 3,000 and the company is USD500 million in debt. Furthermore, the strikes have led to the shutting down of the company’s main source of income, the undersea cable link SAT-3.