Protesting workers in the chemical and non-metallic sector on Tuesday asked the federal government to reconsider its proposed plan to review the cement policy in favour of only one type, warning that more than one million direct and indirect jobs would be lost if the policy is implemented by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).
Speaking under the umbrella of National Union of Chemical, Footwear, Rubber, Leather and Non-metallic Products Employees (NUCFRLANMPE), the union called for an urgent intervention by the government, stressing that the policy was capable of disrupting the transformation agenda of the present administration.
The aggrieved workers, who marched from Toyin Street, Ikeja, to Lagos State Secretariat Alausa, with the support of the state Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Textile Workers Union, lamented that the cement standardisation policy was hasty and capable of worsening the current unemployment situation in the country.
They called on the government to give the cement manufacturers two years grace period to fabricate their machines in order to conform to the new 42.5 cement directive by SON.
Addressing journalists shortly before kick-off of the protest march, the president of the union, Mr. Boniface Isok, said the introduction of 42.5 standard of cement was a welcome idea if only it would be allowed to compete with other types of cement, while leaving the choice to consumers.
Warning of an imminent job loss from the policy directive, Isok said not less than 15,616 direct workers and over one million indirect workers would lose their jobs in companies like Wapco, Unicem, Sokoto, Atlas, Ashaka, Purechem, among other cement companies across the country.
“The point we are trying to make is that while we do not oppose 42.5 cement type, other manufacturers like Lafarge Group, Unicem and Sokoto Cement plants should not be allowed to close down thereby sending their workers to the already saturated labour market.
“We are of the view that the new standardisation policy is hasty and upgrading cannot be done overnight. Therefore, manufacturers of cement should be given at least two years to fabricate their machines to produce 42.5 cement type,” Isok said.
Speaking further, he averred that the policy makers should consider the prevailing circumstances which are hinged on the acceptability of the public and not on “the one that is predicated on overzealous interest pursuit of influential ones.”
He emphasised that any policy forced on Nigerians can never stand the test of time.
Speaking further, the union leader said the attribution of building collapse to the quality of cement cannot be substantiated arguing that cement is only one of the important components used in the building and construction industry.
According to him, many countries of the world like Indonesia, India, America, Kenya and South Africa are also experiencing building collapse and that has not made them to review cement policy in favour of only one type.
“While we are not castigating the quality of 42.5 type of cement that just came to existence one year ago, the union wishes to lend her voice to the lingering policy issue on cement standardisation in Nigeria. We wish to align with and validate the line of argument that no technical fault had been adduced to any type of cement and therefore the spate of building collapse cannot in anyway be attributed to cement quality,” he added.