“The coronavirus pandemics is not just a health crisis, but also a social and economic crisis. The impact COVID-19 has on employment/jobs is deep, far-reaching and unparalleled.” It is in these terms that Guy Ryder, Director General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) spoke on March 27.
In a report issued on April 7, the specialised agency of the United Nations indicates, in particular, that the pandemic paralyses 81% of the world active population. The equivalent of 195 million full-time jobs should be lost between April and June. Asia is the continent which is most hit by job cuts, according to ILO.
In fact, the Asia-Pacific region alone accounts for 125 million of the 195 million jobs lost in the second quarter of 2020. In Europe, the situation is also worrying. Measures for accessing to short-time works have been adopted by many companies.
In the United States, 17 million additional job seekers have been registered in three weeks. Moreover, the large American companies that lay off are subject to many criticisms. That is the case of the fast-food giant McDonalds, General Motors (the third largest automobile manufacturer in the world) or the shipping company specializing in cruise ships Royal Caribbean International: “W e continue to act firmly to protect our financial position and our liquidity.” The decisions of these companies not to maintain the salaries of their employees are controversial in terms of their turnover and dividends maintained, for the shareholders, a priority.”
What about Africa?
All over the African continent, 20 million jobs risk to be suppressed according to a study published by the African Union on April 6. The tourism sector which constitutes an important lever of development for many African countries is hardly hit. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that the economic contribution of the sector in Africa amounts to 55.8 billion dollars while it supports 6.2 million jobs.
The continent’s number one air carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, has already recorded half a billion losses. However, its CEO said he was confident in the ability of the company, owned by the Ethiopian State, to cope with the crisis without having to dismiss one of its 13,000 regular employees: “ Our plan is to stand and overcome the crisis alone. But if, unfortunately, it continues beyond what we imagine, we will see to that when the time comes,” Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, stated.
The South African group MTN announced, in a press release, issued on April 15, 2020 the details of its 250 million rand relief program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Present in 21 markets, MTN Group has customized its response to recognize its responsibility to contribute both on its domestic market, South Africa, as well as on many other markets that are confronted with enormous challenges to manage the pandemic.
“ We believe it is the responsibility of all organszations to help where they can during the pandemic,” Mcebisi Jonas, President of the MTN Group, said.
Finding that charity begins at home, the Group plans to raise 40 million rand for the MTN Global Staff Emergency Fund for employees in need. The Chairman of the Board of Managers, the CEO of the group as well as the Financial Manager of the group and few Managers of the MTN group have committed 30% of their attendance fees and salaries for the next three months.
Few countries have already taken firm steps to stem the threat of social disaster.
In Senegal, the government has decided to take measures to support workers, including namely the ban on dismissals other than for gross negligence and the guarantee of 70% of the remunerations in case of temporary lay-off.
In Dakar, few company managers who have been interviewed have accepted to comment the decision.
For Mamour Diallo, Human Resources Manager at Four du Khalife Sénégal – FKS, health risks could certainly have negative repercussions for employees . “All preventive hygiene measures have been taken to preserve their good state of health so that we would always have human resources in sufficient quantity and quality. With this environment which is difficult to control, our line of vision will always be to seek the preservation of employment. Achieving what is economically feasible and socially desirable will be the balance that will guide our social plan when necessary. Therefore, we will adapt our working organization to different solutions of legal permissiveness, particularly shift work, reduction of working hours, redeployment of staff, telework, etc,” he said.
As for Khady Mbacké Ndoye Sarr, Human Resources Manager for the Sub-Saharan African Region of Philip Morris International based in Senegal, she told us that in a communique issued on April 9, the company has taken strong action in contribution to the international response against this pandemic and is also committed to protecting the health of its employees, job stability and guaranteed income among other measures: “ Since mid-March, we adopted telework measures for the majority of our collaborators in Dakar and in all the other cities where we have colleagues. Since April 1 st , our sale force is no longer carrying out filed tasks in Senegal, for example. We made that decision, no matter how difficult it appears to be, commercially speaking, so as not to expose them to community transmissions, on the one hand, and to avoid them being the disease vehicle, on the other hand. Besides, we have implemented very strong social distancing and disinfection measures at our factory in Pikine. Furthermore, in compliance with the decision of Philip Morris International at the global level, we made and communicated the commitment that throughout the duration of the crisis, we would guarantee to each of our employees in Senegal, as well as elsewhere, their full remuneration irrespective of the fact that ‘he or she is able to fulfil his professional obligations or not. We are going through an extremely difficult time for everyone and it is precisely the moment to support our employees and their families, whatever the cost.”
Though few analysts venture to predict how long this crisis will last, it is clear that it constitutes a test of loyalty for employers with respect to the men and women with whom their destinies are linked, particularly in these times of crisis.