UPDATED: Nigerian telecom workers to kick-off strike today; Data and call services may be disrupted

by | Jun 16, 2021

[UPDATE on June 18, 2021 at 11:06 WAT]: On Wednesday, June 16, 2022, MTN Nigeria publicly declared several media reports as “misleading”. The company, however, confirmed that due to rising insecurity in the country, MTN’s services may be disrupted. That is, their technical support team may not get to sites and achieve turnaround time in fault management in time. They clarified that the possible service disruptions are aimed at selected enterprise customers in a few locations to assist them to put business continuity measures in place.

Original story follows below.

On Monday, June 14, 2021, the Private Telecommunications and Communications Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PTECSSAN) — a union that protects the rights of telecom workers in Nigeria — announced plans to embark on a three-day warning strike.

The industrial action will start today, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Reportedly, users may be unable to conveniently use data and call services during the three days as the strike is likely to disrupt these services.

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According to The Punch, PTECSSAN is embarking on the strike to express their concerns against what the General Secretary, Okonu Abdullahi, calls “arbitrary sackings and casualisations”.

Abdullahi said that workers are usually outsourced, which has caused a significant problem in the industry. And since it’s a continual problem, workers are always shortchanged.

In recent times, PTECSSAN has made demands and even threatened to go on strike regarding this problem. However, none of their demands has been met.

In August 2020, PTECSSAN threatened to go on a two-week warning strike over the remuneration of workers, employee relations practices, exit packages for long-term staff, and alleged abuse of expatriate quota, among others.

Moreover, in March 2021, the telecom association planned to embark on industrial strike action against Huawei Technologies Nigeria Limited, a telecom equipment company. They kept denying workers the right to unionise.

However, following the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami’s intervention, that strike action was suspended. In a statement, he said that the telecom equipment company was ready to address the concerns PTECSSAN raised.

The strike action reportedly commencing today is against the precarious working conditions in the telecom sector like ignoring occupational health and safety, lack of hazard allowance and poor remuneration, and the abuse of national laws and institutions by employers.

While the association may be protesting for its rights, the disruptions of data and call services may affect the Nigerian economy. 

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Yesterday, Tuesday, June 15, 2021, MTN reportedly said that due to insecurity in the country, service in Nigeria might be disrupted. 

What this means is that MTN’s technical support team, in some cases, may not get to the site and achieve an optimum result timely.

Recall that we wrote that the Nigerian telecom lost 15.5 million mobile subscribers between December 2020 and March 2021 following the SIM registration ban. Therefore, this won’t be the first disruption to the telecom sector in recent months.

In 2020, Internet shutdowns cost sub-Saharan Africa $237.4 million.

According to Statista, as of January 2021, there were 4.66 billion active Internet users globally. In Nigeria, as of January 2021, there were 187.9 million mobile connections and 104.4 million people connected to the Internet, per Data Reportal

Deloitte’s 2016 The Economic Impact of  Disruptions to Internet Connectivity Report shows that in a low connectivity country, with a GDP per capita of $6,000, a population of c. 40 million people, and fixed broadband penetration of c. 5%, a temporary Internet shutdown could have an estimated GDP impact of c. $3 million per day of disruption, amounting a 0.4% of daily GDP.

This reveals the importance of the Internet to business today.

We reached out to MTN and Airtel, but as of press time, we are yet to receive a response.

It’s not certain if Pantami will intervene this time, neither is it known if the industrial strike action will aid the association’s demands.

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