By Mustapha Suleiman
What is the significance of the formal inauguration of Abuja Tailors branch into the umbrella body of National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria?
The significance of this is that we are organizing which is the primary function of the trade union movement. Our slogan is ‘organizing the unorganized,’ don’t forget our name is National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), but in the past we concentrated more on the formal sector namely; textile component and to some extent garment.
But it is now time for us to bring to the fold these huge armies of tailors, and fashion designers who are also legally our members. And they are in their millions throughout the country. So, we have started in Abuja and next is Lagos where we have the highest concentration of tailors and fashion designers. They are almost about 34 zones coming together to form this body and they have always been part of us for the past three years, but this is the first time we are formalizing them and interestingly we discovered that they are also organized to some extent, that is, under the National Union of Tailors (NUT) but now they have to be part of a bigger family. This also means we are trying to formalize the in formalize; meaning that we are bringing them into world of decent work and we pray that the same labour standard that the union had fought for: minimum hours of work, minimum safety occupational standard, minimum pay, and minimum income.
But in the case of tailors because they are self employed ,so you don’t talk of wages but there should be minimum income below which they will never fall and then even life after work informal sector workers should start thinking about that. They should also be part of the pension scheme and we are happy that PENCOM is also talking about micro pension, which means it shouldn’t just been for, we, the formal sector workers who employers pay on behalf of employees, but what of those who are self employed, they are also concerned about life after work. So the significance of it is that many of our tailors will now come to the world of decent work.
How do you intend to integrate their interest into the wider body?
They need a voice to engage the government because they are also exposed to multiple taxation. Government at all levels impose multiple levies on them. Local government charges them, state government also charges them without service delivery. What I mean is that no security for them, no permit work.
What is your advice to government in order to save the tailoring sector, which is a source of income to millions in the informal sector in the face of the prevailing economic recession?
This inauguration is taking place at a time the federal government has just launched ‘recovery and growth plan.’ It was launched last Monday. The thrust of that plan is that Nigeria will grow its economy by 7percent growth rate from negative so now we are getting out of recession with prosperity. And it should be all inclusive growth to include all sectors of the economy.
All stakeholders, organized labour, organized businesses, private sector, chambers of commerce, but often they don’t talk of the informal sector workers, so when they talk of reducing the cost of doing business, they are talking of big multinationals who want permits, want tax waiver, tax holidays, and uninterrupted power supply. We are using this forum to call on the federal government that the new economy recovery plan should be inclusive of small businesses, self employed people, informal sector workers, because the cost of doing business for them is even higher. With the little money they have, they have to buy small generators, buy fuel, the money that a tailor should have used to buy a new machine. So, how do you reduce the cost of business of a tailor, you make electricity available, make input available, when you hear CBN talking of allocating scarce resources to manufacturing, to people producing locally, they don’t capture this people. Yet 100 percent they are local people.
When we call for reduction in fuel price is to make the cost of their production lower and their income higher. We also call on government to patronize them. If government is going to pursue the policy of providing school uniforms for school children in the states, they should not buy the fabrics from China and sew them from China. They should give it to our tailors. Our tailors if you give them training can also sew police, customs and civil defence uniforms. As am talking to you all these are being imported and sewn directly from China.
So you have this 7.3 trillion budget what are you going to use it for? Is it to finance recovery of Nigeria businesses including this small people or you are going to use it to finance economy recovery for India and China because they are also targeting this money. So our argument as a union is please use this money to patronize made in Nigeria goods, agric, and made in Nigeria services.
Are they technologically capable enough to handle all you have mentioned?
We are assuming there are tailors, yes there are, but what is the quality of their service. The quality is not better than their training so we are calling on the federal government to immediately set up the national training institute for tailors, to train and skilled them. Because India has it and even Ghana has tailors training institute, when the Ghanaian tailors sew the difference is there due to the training. So we are calling on Industrial Training Fund to key into this program; we also call on UNIDO to do so, ILO is also giving capacity support for them and they can also form cooperatives for funding because they need loans. We always talk of loans for big time players who don’t even pay back their loans. One of the things killing the naira now is because of money borrowed by criminal importers of petroleum products and they don’t even service the loan. Many banks are under distress, in fact the huge non performing loans in Nigeria is about 1.3 trillion naira we are back to almost square one that we were in 2009. We are talking of small loans for the ordinary people who are far honest because they will pay back. And as a union and cooperatives will stand as guarantors for them.
The tailors especially those in a city like Abuja are faced with costly shop rent. Many are pushed to satellite towns where power supply is unstable. Some are still using charcoal pressing iron. How do you help out?
That is what I said earlier that our notion of reducing business cost should not be mainly big businesses because the cost of business for even tailors is also very high. If a tailor cannot rent shop in an area where people can patronize him and is forced to go to the suburbs. How would he make sales? We must ensure that we reduce the cost of doing business for them. Government should build shops for them at subsidized rate and also electricity supply should be improved upon to allow small businesses to survive.
If you are happy to be contacted by a Daily Trust journalist please leave a telephone
number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will
be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state
otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures,
video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others,
take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the
terms and conditions.