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Surmounting workers’ challenges in 2021 through effective labour relations

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Notwithstanding the fears posed by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession, the needs for social partners to show solidarity to surmount challenges as they affect workers have been emphasised.
 
The social partners – employers’ associations and trade unions, labour experts said, are critical for employees to stay in their jobs. Undoubtedly, since the outbreak of the pandemic, the unemployment rate globally has skyrocketed exponentially with attendant health and economic crises.
 
The pandemic brought unprecedented challenges for businesses both locally and internationally, its impact on businesses resulted in global shutdowns; frustrating business operations, investments and supply chains.
 
Organisations that could not remain afloat were forced to close shop, automatically throwing their workers out of jobs, while some others accepted pay cuts. 
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Experts opine that right policy direction by governments and businesses to mitigate the unemployment crisis, economic losses and challenges is pertinent.
 
They argued that even as employers and organisations try to keep businesses afloat, and also obey the government’s directives, job security is paramount.
 
For an impactful 2021, they encouraged workers to be more active in their respective organisations, and belong to labour unions where they would come together to defend one another.
 
President of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and other Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Oyinkan Olasanoye, said Nigerian workers and not just the labour unions alone in the New Year need to put on their thinking caps, as economic recession and COVID-19 pandemic affect all sectors of the economy.
 
She said: “We are complaining about the salary that is not enough and the majority of workers are not gaining anything from the N30,000 minimum wage; and the government that promised has not paid, and there are so many things we are spending money on this year. It is not about being in the union, it is about our survival as Nigerians. The union believes an injury to one is an injury to all, and there are ways we normally cover each other up.”
 
Immediate past president, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Bobboi Bala Kaigama, urged workers to protect themselves and put in place palliatives to cushion any further lockdown.  He charged private sector operators to avoid lay-off but rather come together and embrace social dialogue. 
 
Controller, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Lagos State, Nnamdi Enuah, said considering the second wave of the pandemic, year 2021 is not the time for hostile relations, but for effective labour relations among social partners.
 
Noting that hostility won’t solve the problem, he urged employers and labour unions to apply the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for dialogue for workers to stay in their jobs. He called for more cooperation with the government, which is doing everything possible to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
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According to him, it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war. “With the second wave of the COVID-19 and recession, the need for labour movement and employers to show solidarity to surmount challenges as they affect workers and the citizenry. It is time for robust dialogue, and not time for picketing, strikes or lockouts. It is time for workers to support their management through solidarity to enable jobs to continue while workers also stay in their jobs. It should be a time for mutual support and engagement.”
 
Similarly, a lawyer and labour expert, Paul Omoijiade, maintained that trade unions had been on downward trend lately, urged unions to redouble their efforts and safeguard the interests of workers and also expand membership. He urged employers and workers to recognise their institutional identities.
 
In his remark, the Director-General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Timothy Olawale, urged the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and the TUC to work with the employers to address issues that affect them alike.
 
“Labour is one of our social partners and we have enjoyed cordial relationships over the years. In 2021, we expect a continuation of the cordial relationship. Furthermore, we have entered into an understanding with NLC and TUC, and implementation is what the parties would be working on this year 2021,” Olawale said. 

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