Casual workers of the Indian manufacturing company, Checkers, couldn’t take the harsh conditions of service they have been enduring for the past three years, as they went on rampage on Wednesday, March 30, 2022.
The rampage was embarked upon after one of the supervisors was sent on indefinite suspension by the management over what his colleagues called flimsy excuse to punish the supervisor.
According to report gathered, on that very morning, casual factory workers with the manufacturers of Checkers Custard were seen screaming at the gate and refused to enter the premises. The action was a solidarity move by the staff who said they were fed up with the Indian management over poor treatment and payment. However, the climax of the incident was the suspension of a supervisor named Mr. Theo, over an incident that was not his fault.
The casual staff, totaling over two hundred, was seen by neighbours loitering around the gate of the factory at the Obanla Road, off Parafa Balogun/Jaiyesimi, Imota road, Ikorodu. Their unusual demeanor revealed that they were not in happy mood. As soon as they sighted some of their contractors, the agitation gained tempo as they raised voices.
The contractors, who recruit casual staff for Checkers Custard, are four different agents but only three of the agents were at the scene to calm their workers.
Two of the recruitment agents identified as Mr. Ade and Mr. James quickly called the disgruntled workers and appealed to them to resume work that morning. Some of the lead voices in the protest said at random, that they would not resume work and would not allow any worker into the premises until the suspended supervisor Mr. Theo is reinstated. Some of the opinion leaders who took turn to respond to Mr. Ade’s pleas said they are fed up with the poor treatment they’ve been enduring in the company and demanded that the management do something about it before they resume work.
One of the factory workers who spoke with our reporter, said the pay for casual staffs is too small and they are not getting any other benefits aside the meager wage they receive.
Another casual worker who also spoke on the grounds of anonymity, said the management has never offered any casual staff full employment since inception and those who have been working since the last three years earn same labour wage as a newly recruited worker. The spokesperson for the protesting workers told their agent that the lack of care and concern by the Indian management is not encouraging.
One of them said, “I have been working with Checkers since 2020 and none of my fellow workers have been staffed on full time employment. Yet, we have graduates amongst us. For how long will they continue to treat us unfairly?”.
He added that some of them spend transportation fare of #600 (six hundred naira) to resume working and getting #1200 for a day’s payment.
“The worst part is that sometimes you will resume work and be told you are not working for the day. You don’t get paid for such day and you have already spent six hundred naira transportation fare.”
A female worker who wouldn’t give her name, told our reporter that she is frustrated as the pay is so low and has been so for long.
According to her, the Indian senior staffs are very harsh on the workers and that they always threaten to slap them on the slightest provocation.
They said, though, they work in a place where they produce consumables, they usually starve at work because the Indians would not allow them drink some of the custard.
An elderly woman who also works in the company, said that the management even banned them from taking warm water from the production room whenever they attempt to fix quick drink during production.
Most of the workers who spoke said the production manager, Mr. Bala Kishan, is the most high-handed of the Indian senior staff as he is fond of threatening to slap workers and gives suspension without pay for minor excuses.
While our reporter met the suspend supervisor, Mr. Theo, he said he was suspended over an incident that was not his fault.
“This is the second time the production manager wolud be sending me on suspension this month. The first time he asked me to lay-off for two weeks after he complained of a fault from one of my junior workers. I went and resumed two weeks after and Mr. Bala asked me to go on another suspension just yesterday.
“This recent incident happened three nights ago when I resumed night shift, I noticed there was shortage of raw materials for production for the night shifters and I quickly called the line manager to lay complain. He told me to make do with what we had for the night, that the management would do something by morning so that the morning shift workers will continue. I followed the instruction only for the production manager to start screaming at me this morning that I didn’t handle matters properly. He used foul language at me and I told him to stop insulting me over what I didn’t do. He went livid and asked me to proceed on another suspension”.
His fellow supervisors who were around, said they decided to take up the issue because they have been suffering similar fate in the hands of the Indians for long. They said the production manager unjustly punished Mr. Theo for no reason, hence, they agreed with the workers who were fed up with the poor working conditions to stay out of the factory till they get the management’s attention.
Following their action, the recruitment agents met with the workers and appealed to them to resume work in the factory but they insisted that the Indian senior executive must address and assure them of fair treatment.
Some said they want an increment in the piece wage, which was last adjusted in January 2021.
Mr. Ade made efforts to appease the aggrieved workers but his appeal was met with shouts of anger. They insisted the Indians must meet with them at the gate and fulfill their demands which include immediate review of the labour wage, stoppage of harassment and abusing of workers and looking into staff welfare.
While our reporter took up Mr. Ade over the allegations by the workers against the management, he said not all the grievances are justified.
“The management has welfare packages for the staff but they are not admitting these. For example, one of the casual workers had an accident around LASPOTECH gate and Checkers management paid his medical bills not considering the facts that the accident did not happen in the company premises and the boy involved is not a full time staff. Besides, every January, the management usually reviews the labour wage but they have been hit by the high inflation, that is why they have not done any increment this January. However, they have plans to increase the wage as soon as they balance the high price of raw materials for production.”
One of the Indian executives who arrived in a chauffeured car, stepped out and ordered the workers to enter the factory but they refused.
The agents kept pacifying the workers and assured them that the management would officially address the matter in eight days’ time when they would be holding a meeting. For the time being, the workers would have to resume work.
Checkers Custard company, which shares fence with manufacturers of Hypo bleach, is the newest of the three manufacturing companies in the Parafa Balogun area. The other manufacturing companies around are Lucky Fibre, manufacturer of rugs and synthetic hairs (attachments) and Hypo Limited, manufacturers of household washing chemicals.
Checkers Custard situated their manufacturing plant close to Hypo bleach plant just shortly before the 2020 global lockdown. The company began production of custard days before the Lagos State Government instituted the 2020 lockdown and it has since then been producing fast moving consumer goods.
Secondary school leavers, undergraduates, graduates and semi-illiterates are regularly engaged in the factory as casual staff and they currently have over two hundred casual workers.