By FunmiÂ Komolafe
The effect of the globalÂ melt down on industry and laborÂ was one of the issues raised atÂ theÂ education summit of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring WorkersÂ Union of Nigeria (NUTG).
This edition of Labor Vanguard focuses on the effect on industry, employment generation andÂ organized labor asÂ presented by Professor Dafe Otobo.
ProfessorÂ DafeÂ Otobo of the industrial relations department of theÂ Â University of Lagos spoke on â€œ Industry and LaborÂ in the contextÂ of current global economic crisis.
Taking aÂ look at industry and theÂ global economic melt down, the professor said. â€˜ CorporateÂ governance in Nigeria and Africa is a criticalÂ aspectÂ of the global crisisâ€.
He observed that â€œ most important corporate bodies are foreign-owned and foreign controlledâ€. For thisÂ reason, he said, â€œ Many AfricanÂ governmentsÂ doÂ not appearÂ to have much influenceÂ over how these companiesÂ are governed nor their policies and activities.Â Many African communities , especially those experiencingÂ environmental degradation andÂ pollution , may not be in a position to substantiallyÂ Â influence corporate governanceÂ and policies either.â€.
The professorÂ noted that â€œ globalization, liberalisation and deregulation go against any attempts at Africanisation of managementÂ positionsÂ and thus fewer and fewerÂ Africans are likelyÂ to remain in powerful corporate positions soÂ long as large multinational companies now recruit freely from a globalÂ marketâ€.
More importantly, he observed â€œ more moneyÂ leaves Africa as repatriatedÂ profits than investments flow inâ€.
He attributed the global melt downÂ to many factors includingÂ the now familiar â€œ badly performingÂ businesses, outsourcing, changing technology, decliningÂ demand, declining industry due to technical changes , bad investments portfolios, mismanagement , bankruptcies,Â mergers/acquisitions, etcâ€.
Across the globeÂ thousands of employees have lost jobs and many more are still losing jobs .
Why is this so?Â Professor OtoboÂ is clear that with the meltdown, there is hardly room for employment generation. He saidÂ many businesses may relocate facilities , outsource supplies and services in reaction to costs and profitÂ margins. With declining demands,Â industries make lower profitsÂ and therefore resort to â€˜mergers, takeovers, bankruptcies and loss of jobsâ€.
He explained that though â€œ some businessesÂ do flourish during economicÂ depression and expand, providingÂ Â someÂ jobs- but not enough to make significant differenceâ€.
TheÂ informal sectorÂ Â he noted had created jobs but he said, many of these jobs â€œ are not decent jobsâ€. On the part of governments,Â he is of the opinionÂ that manyÂ governments especially in Africa,Â including Nigeria are â€œ weighed down byÂ external debts , some economic mismanagement,Â corruptionÂ and struggling to implementÂ World Bank / IMF adjustment policies for the last two decades, retrenchment has been continuousâ€.
Harsh times for employees
AsÂ it is in Nigeria so , it is in many African countries.Â The professor observed thatÂ with globalization and the current economicÂ crisis,Â â€œ fiscal and monetaryÂ policiesÂ designedÂ to easeÂ the flow of capital and as added incentives to investors ( elimination of excise duties in someÂ cases and wholesaleÂ downwardÂ review of custom duties among others )are being adopted in an ad hoc manner.
Unions he remarked have been losingÂ Â members â€œ by way of down-sizing, (restructuring, retirements, dismissals, etc)
He also observed that â€œ Many workers in Africa have become part-time workers in orientation, pre-occupiedÂ with how to supplementÂ the pay- packetâ€.
Unions under threat
It is not only employees that are threatened by the effect ofÂ the global economic crisis, unions too have their own share of the problem.
Trade unions according to Professor Otobo have had to contend with â€œdeclining capacity among union leadership due to wastages,Â attrition and prevalence of younger and relatively inexperienced handsâ€.
The emergence ofÂ Â non-governmental organizations with focus on labor issues have weakenedÂ trade unions considerably.
He saidÂ although retrenchment of workers have continued , â€œ there has been a correspondingÂ growth in the development of certain skills and jobs accompanyingÂ rapid changesÂ in technology, they are yet to be organizedÂ by unionsâ€.
The economic melt down has further polarized government and labor on many issues.
Professor Otobo said, â€œ Indeed it isÂ Â difficult today to find a governmentâ€™s socio-economicÂ policy thatÂ does not have oranised labourâ€™s counter-proposal.Â OrganisedÂ labor often embark on nationwide campaignsÂ against official policies , startingÂ with direct approaches to traditional rulers, the use of pamphlets and posters, radio jingles, symposia and workshops and eventuallyÂ ending in demonstrationsÂ and strikesâ€™.
A competent source at the education programme summed it up this way, â€œÂ it is clear that we need to promote more social dialogueâ€.
He said for instance, it is clear that government, employers and organized labor need to work together to ensureÂ get the bestÂ out of the global economic recession.