Mass layoffs at Dodoplast trigger protests in Togo's free zone

Mass layoffs at Dodoplast trigger protests in Togo's free zone

About 330 layoffs sparked demonstrations and highlighted labour issues in the sector

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In Togo's free zone, some 330 Togolese workers are facing a crisis that is shaking their lives and highlighting the precarious conditions of labour in the region. The prominent industrial company Dodoplast has announced mass layoffs, justifying them as an economic measure. However, the claims of the company's director, Huissein Meteirek, are being challenged by workers and their union representatives.

The situation began to deteriorate after a collective leave of more than eight months due to a lack of raw materials, which has already led to financial difficulties for the workers. Now, without prior notice or consideration for the efforts and dedication of the employees, Dodoplast is laying off all its employees. The announcement of the mass layoffs was made by the managing director, who, ironically, was designated Ambassador for Peace in Togo by the President of the Togolese Republic.

This unilateral decision by the employer has been strongly contested by the affected workers as well as by trade union representatives. The General Secretary of the National Union of Industrial Workers of Togo, Issa Boukari, who represents Dodoplast workers, denounces the employer's action as an act of force. He explains that "the economic justification is unfounded and that the employer is trying to evade obligations related to the new minimum wage and to joining the customs zone after a decade of benefits in the free zone".

The leader says a series of measures are being taken to combat the layoffs and draw the attention of the authorities to the situation of workers in the region.

The category remains in a 72-hour truce, aiming to open space for negotiations. Next Monday (17), a new round of negotiations will take place with the employers and the president of the association of companies in the free trade zone. In addition, workers are planning to mobilise all free zone unions for a 48-hour protest in the coming days.

One of the main demands of the category is that the legal rights of workers are respected in accordance with the laws in force in the country. They also seek to ensure that jobs are maintained since the opening of the company and to alert the authorities to the marginalisation faced by workers in the free zone. However, they acknowledge that recent changes to the labour code have favoured employers, making it difficult for them to succeed in their demands.

In addition to labour issues, the union also highlights the precarious conditions faced by workers. During the nine months of leave, on half pay, many employees accumulated debts and faced financial problems. Sadly, four depression-related deaths were recorded in this period. The situation is particularly alarming for the elderly, whose condition is even more precarious, Boukari said.

In this context, the union has requested urgent help from the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggles to ensure support for the children of the affected workers. The aim is to ensure that they can have adequate conditions for the next school year, which starts in September 2023.

While Dodoplast workers are facing uncertainty and fighting for their rights, the situation in Togo's free zone is drawing attention to labour issues and the precariousness faced by many Togolese citizens. 

We support the struggle of Togolese mobilised for policies and practices that ensure fair and decent conditions for all workers in the region!


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