Sharing Is Caring
As this week may yet witness rise in new cases of the COVID-19 pandemic that has significantly challenged the wit of government’s officials in recent weeks, there are indications that em­ployers of labour, after the crisis, may not be smiling when it comes to making the hard decision to part ways with an unimaginable number of their employ­ees, going by insight from economic and corporate data.
While the unusual circumstance of negative threat of mass sack of workers may not be good news to workers, many players in the industry say it is an indi­cation of more bleak days ahead, and the years of government not creating an enabling environment for investment would not be corrected in a period of weeks or even months.
Timothy Olawale, the Director Gen­eral of Nigeria Employers Association (NECA), in a telephone discussion with DAILY INDEPENDENT, argued that while discussions about how to resolve the ongoing global economic crisis ac­companying COVID-19 remain largely unresolved, manufacturers, financial experts are keeping their eyes on eco­nomic and earnings news that emanat­ed from National Bureau of Statistics as inflation report for march hit 12.26% from the previous position of 12.20% to record the highest in 23 months.
He said: “The hard business deci­sions by employers of labour to part ways with employees are seldom un­avoidable. If the needful is not done now, unimaginable mass job losses loom in Nigeria because ‘a stitch in time’, they say, ‘saves nine’.
This call for policy measures, ac­cording to Mr. Timothy, is necessary for government to address the consis­tent rising consumer price index for straight eight months, especially now that coronavirus outbreak and lock­downs globally and domestically have triggered prices of goods and services due to panicky shopping and buying.
Government of countries, in re­sponse to COVID-19, have taken steps to bolster key sectors and lessen the so­cio-economic impact of the pandemic. Measures include economic assistance packages, tax moratoriums, extended deadlines, social security contributions, as well as wage subsidies, loans and guarantees for workers, and Nigeria is no exception,” he said.
He added: “To save jobs in Nigeria, more direct intervention such as: direct wage or income support, wage subsi­dies, tax credits or tax deferrals, short-term work schemes, moratoriums on loan payments and the establishment of a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, where government pays up to 60% of private sector salaries until June as long as workers are not laid off, as done in other climes i.e. UK, France, and Den­mark, would reduce the negative impact on businesses and slow the rate of job loss.”
Olawale, who argued that the dev­astating effects of the long-standing inclement environment for doing busi­ness in Nigeria have been over flogged, said: “This has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the follow-up effect of the unproductive lockdown which understandably was necessary to rein in the blight and protect lives.
“With the lockdown leading to shut­down of manufacturing, businesses, and movement, many companies will not be able to pay salary; this will affect purchasing power of Nigerians there­by leading to supply and demand shock that needs urgent policy measures from the government and policy makers to address the dwindling national and in­dustrial productivity,” he said.
According to NECA’s Director Gen­eral, “While businesses remain pas­sive and unproductive with attendant mass losses of revenue, overhead costs remain. Wages obligations to workers and several statutory payments without respite remain constant.
“The truth is that five weeks of the economic and business shutdown has overstretched the limits and business­es are beginning to buckle under the weight of the burden it is carrying with­out corresponding productivity from workers and necessary support from government. This is the reality today.”
He, however, explained that the government had spoken well in urg­ing businesses to continue to bear the brunt without recourse to staff ratio­nalisation and the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), as the most representative body for or­ganised businesses and employers of labour in Nigeria, had equally added its voice by advising its members to contin­ue to keep the full complements of its workers for as long as it is bearable, and as far as economic indices will permit.
Balancing Protection Of Lives With Economic Interests
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), in his response to what is ahead of the workers, especially with respect to post lockdown socio-economic response, said “we can sustain, enhance, and conclusively win the fight against Covid-19, particularly on the strength of tripartism”.
Wabba agreed that balancing the protection of lives with economic inter­ests should, ordinarily, not be difficult for the government.
He, however, said: “While protection of life should take precedence, the need to protect the economic foundation of the nation cannot be discounted as the economy will ultimately sustain life. While the government takes decisive steps to protect lives, efforts should also be made to keep productive activities going.
Government’s Action On Stimulus Package And the questions
While a lot has been said on the in­tervention of the Federal Government and various coordinated efforts of other stakeholders, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, the President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), noted that more decisive action on stimulus to businesses need to be taken.
He, however, said: “The announced stimulus, to a large extent, has not ad­dressed the critical needs of businesses that will guarantee sustainability and protection of jobs.”
Relaxation Of Lockdown With Regulations To Protect Lives
Omorodion Ambrose, Chief Re­search Officer, InvestData Consulting Limited, in his chat with our correspon­dent, emphasised that the global eco­nomic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, now projected to be the worst recession since the Great Depression by the IMF, would bring about a reconsid­eration of long-standing need to safe­guard or protect jobs in the country, both in the interim and in the long term after the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said: “While it is desirable for the lockdown to be relaxed and not totally removed, it is important to state that mismanagement of the lockdown re­laxation process might spell doom for the gains already achieved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: