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Stakeholders highlight need for inclusive policies in job creating sectors

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Jaye Gaskia


Stakeholders in the food, beverage and tobacco industry have said the potential of the industry to contribute to economic growth, job creation, and national development is quite immense if the political challenges could be surmounted and policies in all spheres are made more responsive to the needs of workers and citizens.
 
At the gathering of workers and stakeholders in the sector recently, where they spoke on how the industry could lead to the promotion of sustainable economic growth and quality job creation, a labour socialist, Jaye Gaskia, argued that economic growth does not automatically equate mass reduction in unemployment and or poverty; nor does appreciable national development measured in economic growth and infrastructural development terms alone, equate human development.
 
He said for economic growth and national development to lead to human development, growth must be equitable, wealth created by increasing productivity of labour must be equitably distributed, while citizens must be able to access opportunities without hindrance.
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For this to be possible, Gaskia, who is also a member of the national leadership of Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), said workers and the labour movement in general, and the trade unions, in particular, must be determined to play more decisive and central roles in policy design, formulation and implementation processes, as well as in the management and oversight of governance processes.
 
He added that for the potential of the industry, along with other sectors to be fully realised and maximised for human and national development, policies must be such that they are integrated and their design and implementation coordinated and synergised. 
 
A former president of the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association (FOBTOB), Sola Iji, said for the sector to keep people in employment and operate optimally, the government must create an enabling environment in areas of tax incentives and reasonable tariff. 
 
He said the issue of redundancies witnessed in the sector in recent times would be avoided as most employers could not meet up with the many policies affecting the sector.
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Noting that the food industry was very strategic to ensuring adequate food supply and processing, he said if the companies were in good working conditions and could produce at optimum capacity, they will keep people in employment.
 
According to him, “By keeping people in employment, you are contributing to an adequate supply of food and increasing the capacity for people to consume and when you have people with adequate capacity to consume, they will have enhanced purchasing power.”He said trade unions must work with the employers to understand and appreciate the environment in which they operate. 
 
The reality, he said, encourages them to address some issues by engaging the government to also address problems faced by employers, “because if the union says it, it makes more sense to the government than when being articulated by employers.”
   
For the employers, he said: “Motivation is essential to enhance the productivity of workers. A highly motivated workforce is likely to deliver optimally, as there would be more supplies of food. They need to look at those things that would motivate workers like job security. If you operate in an environment where the job is secure, the workers would put in their best, so employers should encourage employees in that aspect.”
 
For Ola Joseph, also a former executive secretary of FOBTOB, the sector was positioned to address food security, adding that, to achieve it, the government must provide the enabling environment as policies would determine how far each sector goes.He said the workers and management must be able to leverage the policies provided by the government to be able to make advancements.
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Joseph, who maintained that there was the need to attract investment to expand the scope, stressed that the government must provide credit facilities and encourage management that their investments are secure so that enough capital would go into the food sector. 
 
He also spoke on the role of industrial relations as being very important, adding, “Industrial relations must be the peaceful one. On the employers’ side, the working environment, social and job security are critical to motivating the workforce. There should not be divided attention for workers to put in their best. These should be put into consideration.”
 
Gabriel Babalola of Cadbury Nigeria and past president of FOBTOB, in his contribution, said there should be room for dialogue with government and unions in the sector to achieve the goal of making food available for Nigerians.
 
Similarly, Abdulrahman Babatunde said the government was already on the right path by closing the borders, but what is needed is to give subsidies in terms of infrastructure to boost growth in the sector. 
 
He said: “The food industry is a streamline and main actor for food and supply chain in Nigeria. For the sector to rescue hunger in the country, there is the need for the government to improve on the existing infrastructure with good working conditions through better welfare. If workers are well paid, productivity would grow, profit would improve and the company would be better for it.”
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In this article:
FOBTOBJaye GaskiaSola Iji
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