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Friday, August 7, 2009

British commission's security guards protest poor pay, others

From Terhemba Daka, Abuja

SECURITY operatives attached to the British High Commission and the DFID in Abuja yesterday morning staged a peaceful protest over alleged poor condition of service and what they described as nonchalant attitude of the authorities to their general welfare.

The protest was staged at the gates leading to the Visa section of the Commission in Abuja and the British Village located in the Maitama Area of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The workers also claimed to be protesting what they called 'third party contract' as adopted by the British High Commission, which they said was not favourable to them in all ramifications. The action, however, did not disrupt official duties of the Commission.

It was learnt that the operatives also known as Guards numbering over 410 in Nigeria, yesterday carried out the protest simultaneously in all the British offices located in Kano, Kaduna, and Enugu following alleged failure of the British High Commission in Nigeria to accede to their demands.

Some of the Guards, who wore red bands on their official uniforms turned inside out complained that the N27, 300 monthly salaries, excluding other compulsory deductions is grossly inadequate, considering the global economic crunch.

One of the protesters who spoke on condition of anonymity explained that "by the time some compulsory deductions are made, which include pension, taxes, union dues and transportation levies, which averagely take away about N300 per day, one is left with less than N10,000 at the end of the month".

Bemoaning their condition of service, The Guard said the "Security operatives are made to work for several hours against the labour law in Nigeria, which is eight hours per day. We have been subjected to 12 hours for one week with no access to medical services and leave. We are not entitled to public holiday allowances as well as severance benefits at the end of service, among other things. They come to Nigeria, make their money but don't care about us."

In a July 2009 letter of appeal addressed to the Deputy High Commissioner, British High Commission in Abuja on the need to attend to their plight, the Guards through their affiliate body, National Union of Hotels and Personal Services Workers (NUHPSW) had called on the British authorities to look into their conditions dispassionately.

Chairman of the striking Guards in Abuja, Suleiman Onuche, explained that all efforts by the union to resolve the matter have not been successful. According to him: " the Minister of Labour has even intervened in the matter but up till now, the authorities have refused to comply with the outcome of the meeting with the minister."

On how long the strike will last, Onuche explained that the one day protest was a warning to register their grievances to their employers who are supposed to be sensitive to their welfare and improve on their salaries among others.

"As we want it to be, we intend to continue throughout today (yesterday, Wednesday) after today we will call it off as a warning to them. If they refuse to comply, then we will think of the next line of action", he said.

Attempts by newsmen to speak with an official of the British High Commission on the matter were rebuffed by a police officer.

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