By Victor AhiumaYoung
ONE of the ad hoc measures adopted by government to cushion the effects of petrol subsidy removal is the reduction of work days from five days a week to three. In a critical appraisal of the measure, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, and Chemical and Non-Metallic Products Employers’ Federation, CANMPEF, have faulted the policy, warning that it will seriously hurt the economy in the long run.
Speaking, President of NLC, Joe Ajaero, said: “The reduction in the number of days of work from five days to three days may seem a great gesture by the government, but we make bold to say that it is a Greek gift laden with dangerous intentions.
“It is a short-sighted approach and when critically evaluated, its potential consequences immediately come to the fore especially for an economy that is heavily traumatized and citizens that are already psychologically dislocated.
“Economically, reducing workdays may seem to provide immediate relief for workers on transport, but it comes at a cost to the economy. A reduction in productivity could lead to decreased GDP, affecting both public and private sector revenues.
“This, in turn, can hinder the government’s ability to fund essential services and projects, exacerbating the economic challenges in the long run.
“This may provide an alibi for government to seek further reduction in the public sector workforce creating unemployment and underemployment in the process.
“With fewer days of work, supporting businesses will be negatively impacted, leading to financial instability for many families. This could result in a vicious cycle of poverty, as informal sector households struggle to make ends meet.
“A reduced workweek may limit opportunities for skills development and career advancement as workers in the public sector may have fewer chances to learn new skills or gain valuable experience, potentially stagnating their professional growth.
“This could lead to a less competitive workforce in the global market, hindering Nigeria’s long-term economic progress.
“It has serious psychological implications for workers and their families. It may lead to increased stress and anxiety among workers worried about their job security. Furthermore, it can disrupt established routines, affecting mental well-being and overall societal stability.
“Moreover, has anybody thought of what will happen when teachers decide to teach only for three days? What will happen to the quality of Education and the entire educational system? Has anybody given a thought to what will happen if doctors and those in medical field including those in the seaports and airports, go on shortened days of work? Its implications will be humongous.
“Government in Nigeria is always trying to use every opportunity to undermine workers and the world of work and this is not helpful. This proposal is an acceptance on the part of the Government of the failure of its policies to address the basic challenges of its actions.
“It is akin to saying if any part of your organ is sick, remove it. That will lead ultimately to death so, if a country continues contracting its socioeconomic activities instead of solving them, it will ultimately cause a socio-economic implosion.
“It is better to look for more creative ways to respond to the suffering which its action has unleashed on the masses rather than looking for short-term, self-serving quick fix actions which have the potential to damage our nation more in the long run.
“While the proposal to reduce workdays may seem like a well-intentioned palliative measure, it is essential to weigh the potential dangers and long-term consequences.
“It is crucial for policymakers to consider alternative solutions that address the root causes of the economic challenges, rather than resorting to short-term fixes that may lead to even greater problems in the future. Sustainable strategies such as investing in alternative energy sources and diversifying the econo my, should be explored to ensure a stable and prosperous future for Nigeria.”
Also, Deputy President of the TUC, Dr Tommy Okon, said: “I have said it several times that deduction of work days as part of measures to address effects of fuel subsidy removal is inimical to productivity and Gross Domestic Product, GDP, especially at this time when our economy is suffering from low productivity, national competitiveness and low international ranking.
“Government should rather provide adequate incentives, transportation and wage award to workers to encourage them to be productive than asking them to stay at home for two days without work for any reason whatever.
“Today, Nigeria is not ripe for remote work, telework and online generated work because of the data and network challenge. It is my well thought-out position that reduction of work days as part of measures to address the lingering socio-economic challenges resulting from the removal of fuel subsidy is an ill-conceived measure that will surely lead to low productivity and GDP if not checked.“
From the employers’ side, NECA, through its Director-General, Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, said: “Arising from the removal of fuel subsidy and the attendant spike in the cost of living, both the public and private sectors are working on cushioning plans that everybody will benefit from.
“One of those initiatives is the Work from Home Scheme. A scheme that focuses on reducing the travel time and also the amount spent on transportation weekly by employees.
“In the private sector, there is no reduction in work days but rather, a rethinking of where work is done. The work from home measure aims to promote or enhance productivity and also assist employees to upscale their work-life-balance quotient.
“Rather than a negative outcome, results have shown that a more balanced work-life schedule enhances productivity. Once productivity is improved, it also has a positive consequential effect on national growth and development. Beyond partly addressing the challenges of fuel subsidy removal, it also enhances growth across all sectors of the economy.”
In the same vein, Executive Secretary, CANMPEF, Femi Oke, said: “The emergence of COVID-19 has brought changes in the work place such as remote work and flexible work patterns. This has not reduced productivity because adequate measures are put in place to ensure employee performance is monitored.
“The labour law specifies 40-hour work per week. That is eight hours for a five- day week. The reduction of work days will lead to decrease in work hours, output, productivity and efficiency that may result in decreased economic activity and lower the country’s GDP.
“The Government should consider other options to reduce the effects of the fuel subsidy removal on their employees.”