Workers at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, yesterday, protested against the decision of the management to pay only twenty percent of the entitlement of workers that will be laid off soon.
Addressing the angry workers at the staff canteen, the Branch Chairman, National Union of Hotel Workers, Comrade Chinonso Ogbonnaya said while the management reserves the right to hire and fire, they should do it in line with the provisions of the organisation’s conditions of service.
He declared that the management and workers have been negotiating on the decision to downsize the workforce since July following a dip in the revenue of the hotel as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that the latest protest was provoked by the decision of the management last Friday to sack 50 percent of the workers and pay them only 20 percent of their entitlement.
“It is not a thing caused by this organization, it is a global issue. We are not the one that caused COVID-19 neither is it the management or the owners. But as it is now, the staff of this organisation are being punished for an offence they never committed.
“We know that even in advanced nations, people were given palliatives. This is a globally-recognised organization, we appealed to the organization from inception to give our members little palliatives but they never did.
“Throughout this period, we were receiving 50 percent of our salary because there was a salary cut. But what brought all of us here today, is that as soon as the federal government announced the ease of lock-down and the re-opening of the international and local airspace, management called us to say they wanted to downsize to the tune of 80 percent of the workforce and they could only pay 80 percent of the accrued benefits of those that would be affected.
“We have been on this since July. They have taken us to places. We no longer join the staff bus because they refused us its use.
“People who are on night schedule, they refused to pay them night allowances. They now allow one person to do the job of eight persons in a day and yet the person cannot get his pay.’’
Also speaking, branch secretary of the workers union, Comrade Friday Ochayi called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene and ensure that workers are not denied their entitlements.
“We use this avenue to call on President Buhari to please listen to the cry of Nigerian workers and their rights. I can tell you that the president is not aware of what is happening here.
“Our revenue since three months has been doing very well. We almost made N1 billion and they are not giving us what we ought to get.
“Mr. President, we voted you in because of your antecedent in the fight against corruption. We are Nigerian workers; we can’t be thrown to the streets without our benefits.
“Mr. President, we know you can do it, we are your children too,” Ochai said.
Some of the placards carried by the protesting workers read ‘Pay us our full benefits even if you want to sack all of us;’ ‘Tony Elumelu you can’t go away with our money’ and ‘Tony Elumelu pay us our 100 percent benefits, we are not slaves.’
Efforts to get the reaction of the hotel management was not successful as they reneged on initial arrangements to speak with journalists after keeping them waiting for almost one hour.
They promised to reach out to the media anytime they are ready to respond to the agitation of the workers.