By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Nigerian workers have remained the scapegoats of the devastating effect of the Covid-19 pandemic as they constantly suffer one victimisation or the other from employers in both public and private sectors of the economy.
Workers in the nation’s Petroleum industry are among the most victimised in the country as disclosed by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN.
Giving insight into the plight of workers in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, PENGASSAN’s President and General-Secretary, Festus Osifo and Lumumba Okugbawa, said in a statement that: “Covid-19 has inflicted a heavy toll on our members, demeaning their employment and undermining career prospects. One in six oil and gas workers who were employed before the outbreak stopped working altogether; most notably, workers in clerical support services, sales, crafts, and related trades. Two out of five workers reported a reduction in their income. Lower-income workers are the most exposed to a reduction in working time and the contraction in income that results.
“According to the International Labour Organisation, ILO,2020; alongside efforts to address the health emergency brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, countries around the globe have adopted a vast range of emergency measures aimed at supporting firms’ liquidity in the face of mandatory business restrictions, quarantines, and plummeting activities. Among these measures, government-financed short-time work and wage subsidy schemes were adopted in a number of countries to minimize job losses.
“As at today, many self-employed workers in the country have seen their incomes collapse, resulting in policy formulators taking immediate steps to improve the accessibility to, and generosity of, unemployment minimum-income benefits. Alongside these efforts, several countries introduced new cash transfers targeted at those who remained without cover, supported expenses or, in a number of cases, introduced universal transfers to ensure no one fell through the cracks.
“Despite all these measures, we note that the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic have not fallen with equal severity on all shoulders as some existing vulnerabilities have been exposed, and inequalities entrenched. Many of those with more limited means and protection, such as workers in informal employment or in diverse work arrangements, have been the least able to face the consequences of the crisis. Our jobs as oil and gas workers are threatened daily by constant rumours of sacks and redundancies.”
Rebuilding labour market
According to PENGASSAN, the pandemic had exposed deep-rooted labour market fragilities and structural inequalities, with low-paid workers, young people, women, ethnic minorities, the self-employed and informal and fixed-term workers among the hardest hit by the crisis.
The association said: “Our policymakers must begin to think beyond policies for the recovery and start on the task of building a future of work that is safer, fairer, greener, and more effective in cushioning the consequences of future crises on jobs and incomes. “Building back better” calls for increased policy coherence, in particular between economic, employment, and social policies and a whole-of-society approach.