Dresser-Rand, a subsidiary of Siemens, the German engineering giant, is planning to sack about 70% of its staff in Nigeria reportedly for belonging to trade unions.
A report in Nigeria’s This Day newspaper on 20 April claimed: “The management of Dresser-Rand had barred its Nigerian staff from participating in union activities, thereby, restraining them from enlisting as members of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum Employees of Nigeria (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigerian (PENGASSAN)”.
Nigerian staff at the company staged protests in Port Harcourt against the planned mass sacking.
For starters, if there was such a clause preventing staff from union activities, it is a violation of their fundamental human rights and also a violation of their constitutional rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 23 states:
“(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”
The Nigerian Constitution in Chapter 4, section 40, includes provisions that enshrine the rights of Nigerians to join unions: “Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests”
So the alleged clause in the contract for the Nigerian staff at Dresser-Rand is clearly unconstitutional, illegal and therefore unenforceable. A contract term that purports to enforce illegality is void and has no effect whatsoever. This because the constitution is the supreme law of the land.