· Urge Govt To Urgently Put in Place Measures Collapse of Economy
THE Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and employers in the private sector of the Nigerian economy under the aegis of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) on Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) designed to protect jobs and create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
The MoU, signed by Comrade Ayuba Wabba, President of the NLC, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, President of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), and Dr Timothy Olawale, Director-General of NECA at the Paschal Bafyau Labour House headquarters of the NLC in the Central Business District of Abuja, is a collaborative effort intended by the parties to cushion the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the world of work. The MoU was witnessed by Mr Denis Zulu, Director, Abuja Office of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The MoU, while highlighting the origin of the pandemic, its negative effects on global and national economies and the responses that have been taken by governments at various levels to reduce the health and socio-economic impacts, underscored the need for workers and employers to make joint initiatives and reflections on overcoming the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The rise in the number of confirmed cases has made it incumbent on the Nigerian Government, at State and Federal levels, to take measures to curtail the spread of the virus. These measures included: lockdown of States, imposition of curfew, inter-State restriction on movements (Humans and vehicular), closure of the country’s borders (land, air and sea), and restriction on business activities, amongst many others.
“These measures has [sic] and is [sic] still having devastating effect on Businesses and the economy at large, with serious consequential effects of the unprecedented loss of jobs, closure of Businesses, loss of revenue to Government, individuals and households; and the near collapse of the Economy,” the MoU noted.
While acknowledging the roles of both organised labour and employers in the economy, the NLC, TUC and NECA stated that in recognition of their principal aim of protecting the interest of their members and in view of their identified shared values to contribute to the growth of the economy and the nation, “agreed to collaborate to promote enterprise sustainability and competitiveness, decent job creation and protection and economic recovery and renaissance of Nigeria.”
In coming together, the parties noted that the MoU embodies their shared vision and “desire to pool reflections, initiatives, and actions in the fight against Covid-19 and any external threat to Organisations and Workers in the Private and Public Sectors.”
The parties noted: “As social partners, we are concerned about the rapid deterioration of the economic fabric of our nation since the incursion of Covid-19. Numerous survey [sic] and data have shown that over 90% of production units in the country are today negatively impacted by the virus. The impact on SMEs is particularly significant.
“We welcome the initial and on-going measures taken by Government to curb the spread of the virus and protect the health of the population. Being aware of the difficulties to enforce some of these measures, we believe that the restrictions and other on-going measures imposed are necessary and we appeal for the vigilance and cooperation of employers, workers and other stakeholders.
“We take note of the measures to reduce the effect of the Pandemic by the Government, the Employers, Labour Unions and other bodies. However, we state that Government should increase its efforts and take greater transparent responsibility in the areas of provision of equipment, food and drugs for the most vulnerable in the country.
“We are calling on Government to urgently put in place complementary measures to avoid further collapse of the economy and create a favourable condition for quick economic recovery. The focus should be to maintain enterprise competitiveness, protect employment and create decent jobs, which remains a major interest of the Parties.
“While we reiterate and reaffirm our commitment to the Tripartite social dialogue between the Social Partners (Employers, Workers and Government) which is fundamental in dealing with social, economic and industrial relations issues, this collaboration, a bi-partite is in no way a substitute for other Statutory platforms such as the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC).”
The MoU underscored eight core points of agreement to guide the collaboration between organised labour and employers. They agreed:
“…to work together for a collective understanding of the impact of the Pandemic on the health of Employees and Companies. And in doing so, identify joint actions and initiatives aimed at limiting the deterioration of economic activities and creating the conditions for a viable post Covid-19 rebound of businesses and avoid disaster in terms of Employment.
“…to work together to engage and prevail on Government to provide necessary economic stimulus packages to Businesses, particularly, in the most hit sectors of the economy, to wit; Aviation, Hospitality, Tourism, Manufacturing, and Transportation among others.
“…to jointly work with Government and Stakeholders on issues thrown up by the emerging new World of Work and Business in the fight against the Covid-19 Pandemic and its impact on Business.
“…to initiate joint reflections, accompanied by proposals on strategies for creating and developing employment in Nigeria for onward presentation to government.
“…to jointly work together to prevent further loss of jobs in the private sector by engaging companies in a bid to get them to adopt more humane options, provided that, such engagement would be in tandem with social dialogue principles, respect for rights of each parties and in conformity with labour standard practices.
“…to be committed to promoting Occupational Health and Safety at Work.
“…that the parties shall consult among themselves before taking any measure to prevent loss of jobs in the Private Sector.
“…to maintain this collaboration, post Covid-19 to address issues of joint concern to the parties for the promotion of enterprise competitiveness, decent job creation and protection, and the economic prosperity of our nation.
It’s a Significant Event – NLC
In his address on behalf of organised labour before the signing of the MoU, Comrade Wabba described the MoU signing ceremony “very important and significant event” that “is another testament to the growth and development of social dialogue, cooperation and tripartism in Nigeria.”
While describing businesses and workers as Siamese twins with mutually shared interests and aspirations, Comrade Wabba said no disaster in recent history has threatened the shared interests and aspirations of both employers of labour and workers like the novel corona virus.
“The disease had successfully put the entire global socio-economic system on almost complete lockdown for the past three months. The impact on businesses, workers and livelihood has been monumental. According to a report released by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in March 2020, 25 million people globally were expected to lose their jobs to the pandemic. I am sure that figure was based on early assessment of the Covid-19 situation.
“Ladies and gentlemen, these are dire times. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on health and business is humungous. The urgency of the situation at hand informed the resolve of social partners in Nigeria – Employers’ and Workers’ Organizations to work together on developing a shared perspective and resolve aimed at mitigating the storms ahead,” Comrade Wabba said, adding that the MoU identified critical areas of mutual needs, collaboration and efforts that would enable the social partners address the fallout of Covid-19. He said the overarching aim of the MoU is to promote the health of Nigerians, boost productivity, protect jobs and preserve the means of livelihood for millions of Nigerians.
Wabba further stated: “As organized labour, our major concerns going forward include job security, rights at work, social protection and occupational health and safety for all workers in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Already thousands of workers especially the frontline workers have fallen victim to the Covid-19 infection. While we continue to call on government and private sector employers to provide adequate protective and preventive facilities at the workplace, we will use the framework of this MoU to ensure that workers who fall ill are supported through paid sick leave to recover and be reinstated safely to their positions at work. We will also defend existing social protection nets such as pension and gratuity.
“Given the need to boost productivity and economic growth at this time, we will continue to work with NECA to put pressure on government to provide businesses with palliatives, grants and fiscal support incentives including downward review of tax and interest rates in order to give businesses the breathing space to maintain production at pre-Covid-19 level and be able to keep jobs and income. The target sectors include Aviation, Hospitality, Tourism, Manufacturing, Transportation etc.
“We will also work with employers in the private sector through the social dialogue process to prevent further loss of jobs in Nigeria, uphold pristine occupation health and safety standards and ensure the promotion of enterprise competitiveness, decent jobs, employment creation and the economic prosperity of Nigeria.
“Given the broad nature of the challenges thrown up by Covid-19, we will continue to support government to safeguard the health of all Nigerians since it is only a healthy population that can guarantee a healthy workforce and in turn the best returns on productivity.
Thank you so much, Sir for this beautiful report.