Thursday, November 10, 2005

Striking for Pay

As time goes on, I (re)learn more about working successfully in Nigeria.

Yesterday, in continuance of what has become the norm around here, we had no electricity for most of the day. The power supply went off around 11.30 and returned after closing hours. Now why were we still in the office after closing time, even though the lack of electricity meant that we couldn’t do any work, I hear you ask? Why, because the security guards went on a strike! They haven’t been paid in months (since January I heard) and had enough. They locked the gates and refused all staff exit from the compound. I initially laughed about it until it dawned on me how long we could be there.

Another question you might have: why hadn’t they been paid in months? Oh, the property managers were having financial difficulties and the onus fell on the tenant companies to cough up the money for the salaries (even though that is not their responsibility). It was talk of this payment that resulted in the hours-long back and forth. Watching my boss talk things over with the rest of the tenants reminded me of a quote attributed to Margaret Thatcher. “If you want things said, ask a man. If you want things done, ask a woman.” My boss was the only who appeared to be trying to resolve the situation. The rest of the tenants (MEN!!!!) seemed to be having a ball talking about it, making jokes about it and generally not helping the situation at all. Eventually some money was brought forward (by my boss) and the electricity miraculously came back on. It turned out that the electricity had come back around 3:00 PM, but to increase the effect of their strike, the security (MEN!!!) had decided not to switch it on. So after being held hostage for several hours we were free to go, after a full day of accomplishing almost nothing.

Now I can almost laugh about it, but it can very well happen again so I won’t laugh too hard.

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