As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark workers’ Day amid the COVID-19 pandemic, job sustainability and workers’ welfare formed the main stream of messages by the Federal Government and Trade Union Congress (TUC).
The Federal Government, in its message to both public and private sector workers, said they need not worry as it was working on measures to shield them from the effects of the pandemic.
It said it would not lay off any workers but would rather create opportunities for 10 million people jobs after the containment of the virus.
To private sector employees, the government said any employer of labour bent on sacking must first get clearance from the Ministry of Labour and Productivity.
Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, explained that these were parts of the plan by the Federal Government to sustain the economy and protect workers.
Ngige said talks were ongoing between the Presidential Economic Sustainability Council and employers on job protection at this “challenging of time.’’
The minister disclosed that all relevant factors of the nation’s workforce will be identified, analysed and solidified to ensure job retention and continued realisation of the decent work agenda.
Ngige said: “It is a well-known fact that arising from the COVID -19 crisis, businesses in both the private and public sectors have suffered. Sustainability of the enterprise has become a subject of concern. The worries precipitated by the COVID -19 crisis are further compounded by worries of maintaining a source of livelihood.
“In this regard, the government and special partners would have a look at the four-pillar plan of policy responses to Covid-19 crisis laid out by the ILO, which are intended to be human-centred and built on global solidarity.”
Ngige added that government was, on its own, evolving action plan to sustain the economy in the context of current global crisis.
He said: “All relevant factors of the nation’s workforce will be identified, analysed and solidified to ensure job retention and the continued realisation of the decent work agenda.
“In doing this, we will be guided by the labour standard as benchmarks for social and employment protection at this time of vulnerabilities.
“Along this line, talks are currently ongoing between the Presidential Economic Sustainability Council and Employers on job protection and even creation at this time and progressively to post Covid -19 crisis.”
He said the target of the government is to create 10 million jobs within a year at the end of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ngige praised the workers in the healthcare sector for being in the frontline of the war against COVID-19 and expressed the government’s appreciation of their umbrella unions like the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).
The minister said: “Over the years, May 1 has been a unique day in the world of work. As we all know, it is called May Day, a day dedicated to workers as partners in the socio-economic development of the nations.
“Workers on this day are recognized as an important limb in the tripod that sustains enterprises and development. Workers, over the years, celebrate May Day and in Nigeria match pasts are conducted by trade unions and their federations in various stadia throughout the federation.”
While praying for God’s blessings on all who have so far discharged their duties to humanity, Ngige challenged employees in the science, technology, and research sector of the economy to produce a vaccine for the virus.
He said if Madagascar and Senegal had done it, we could also do something greater or key into their knowledge to mass produce for the Nigerian populace.
Sounding nostalgic in the message, Ngige said,” Today, May 1, 2020, is different. The stadia are empty and there are echoes of silence. We are all taking refuge in our respective homes and staying off the streets in a global bid to stay alive and beat an invisible enemy called COVID-1 9.
“We stay at home to minimize and eventually stop the spread of the COVID-19 infection which has killed many people in the world and dwindled life and economies. “
In its message, the TUC called on all the three tiers of government, employers and workers strive to rejig the economy to avoid acute recession.
It also urged the Federal Government to protect workers from “uncharitable employers,” who hang on the challenges posed by the pandemic to either carry out mass sacking or cut wages