Stories by Bimbola Oyesola, 08033246177
In the present economic circumstances, the most daunting task for the organised private sector (OPS) is how to remain afloat and break even. And, with the rate at which companies have closed down in the last one year and mass job losses, Labour has resolved there is the need to support
employers in devising ways to ensure continuous survival of their companies. It is against this backdrop that the Chemical and Non-Metallic Senior Staff Association (CANMPSSA), at its 21st Annual National Management/Industrial Relations Seminar & Entrepreneurship Skills Acquisition last week in Ilorin, Kwara State, focused on what workers could do to help their organisations from going down with the recession.
National president of the union, Mohammed Abdul Gafar, said the seminar’s theme, “Strengthening Organisational Performance in a Depressed Economy: Chemical and Non-metallic Products Experience,” was organised as part of contributions to provide solutions to the problems militating against the manufacturing sector.
Gafar lamented that the effect of the present economic situation has been devastating on the manufacturing sector through the scarcity of foreign exchange, and called for government to keep it word on backward integration.
He noted that firms in Nigeria have now embarked on various strategies to enable them remain in business, some which are detrimental to to workers.
He said, “Our challenge is that nobody in government is paying attention to the problem in the manufacturing sector; it is so bad now that we wonder how industries are coping. So, as workers, we believe that we can work together, create synergy that will stabilise our organisations and increase our productivity,” he said.
On his par, the Executive Secretary of CANMPEF, Femi Oke, who delivered the keynote address at the three-day programme, commended the union’s theme of the seminar, which he said was apt at a time when the manufacturing sector was facing challenges as a result of the downturn in the nation’s economy.
The CANMPEF scribe explained that Nigeria has found itself in the present recession through the fall in crude oil price, reduction in government revenue and GDP -2.06%; unemployment rate 13.1%; inflation rate 17.1%; PMI decline to 42.1; high forex rate of CBN N305/ USD (parallel market N445/USD) and inconsistent monetary policies.
“It is a phenomenon of decreasing demand for raw materials, products and services. Recession is said to exist when the gross national product declines for two consecutive quarters, or when leading economic indicators declines for three straight months,” he said.
Oke highlighted challenges the manufacturing sector was facing as follows, inability to access foreign exchange, high input cost pressure, government ban of 41 imported materials, poor electricity supply and tariff hike, prolonged gas supply shortages and high cost of LPFO, inventory depletion & financing constraints, capacity utilisation down by 50% and weak consumer purchasing power.
He said, “The scenario above shows a huge decline in manufacturing activities and profit. The companies are trying to survive at all cost while some have shut down operation, laid off employees and are owning employees salaries in arrears.
“Companies are struggling to combat the adverse effect of forex fluctuations, which have impacted input costs. It can be deduced that the performance of companies this year has been far below projections.”
The employers body, however, expressed the hope that organisations would need to strengthen their performance by improving on organisational and individual capabilities.
“The current economic challenges calls for an increase in management an union relationship. Both need to collaborate and partner to ensure that the company’s performance improves. Strengthening performance should be uppermost in the minds of the association,” he said.
Oke noted that organisation and individual capabilities require several elements working together: Work processes, people, measuring systems, knowledge and environment. Following these would make many organisations survive the economic turmoil.
1. Work processes
Under work processes, these three are essential:
Flexible work systems.
Procedures implemented in a consistent way.
For progress in the organisation, it is also important for line management to take ownership for delivering positive results.
Strong leadership and management skills will motivate strong individual contributions to performance.
Employees are engaged and respond positively to change initiatives.
Key indicators for this include
Organisation health audits
Benchmarking best practices
Business performance management system by setting objectives and key business indicators
Performance management systems
Organisations require employees with adequate skills, knowledge and competence to deliver on business objectives, so training is essential, as is the need to be up-to-date.
Shared vision, mission and values
Culture of openness and trust
Excellent two-way internal communications systems
Effective management and workers relationship.
Parties cooperate to achieve organisational objectives
Management involves union in drawing up and executing company policies but retains the right to manage.
Good work ethics
-Commitment to the organisation’s vision and mission.
Workers at receiving end of recession – Iji
As the effects of the present economic recession bites harder, Nigerian workers have been identified as the major victims of the menace.
Legal luminary and ambassadorial nominee, Sola Iji, stated this recently at a reception held in his honour by the National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees. He lamented that workers were the ones at the receiving end of the economic hardship foisted on the country through mismanagement of the economy by previous adminstrations.
Iji, who is the legal adviser to the union and who also got a car gift from the union in appreciation of his chamber’s winning streak in all cases involving the union, said workers have continued to live on old salary in spite of the increase in prices of goods and services.
“Even when things are right, workers are still at the receiving end. Now in this present state, the first thing to go in order to save a company is the worker, and when they are making profits, workers will also be the last to get any reward,” he said.
The former Secretary-General of the Food Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association (FOBTOB), said he considered it a privilege serving the union to win its cases against infringement on its members.
According to him, the core responsibility of unions is emancipation of their members. “For us, we thought we were making our own contribution to the workers, because when we noticed the burden of the leadership of this union, which has a mind of saving its members from injustice, we knew we had to give our best as well,” he said.
The former labour leader, however, disapproved of some unions tha were failing in their responsibility of defending their members against ill treatment and manipulation from employers.
National president of the union, Lateef Oyelekan, earlier charged other leaders to learn from veterans like Iji, who has contributed immensely to the development of labour unionism in the country.
He said, “He has been so outstanding and one of the best lawyers holding cases for us, and for over a decade that he has been our lawyer, he has never lost one and that is why we feel we need to show our appreciation to him in this little way. Our National Executive Council has approved the gift since last year when we considered his track record. He is a man with a sacrificial heart, because he takes some of our cases even without being paid and right now we are still owing him.”
Oyelekan explained that through the efforts of the veteran labour leader, the union has been able to unionised many firms, get justice for some of its members unjustly sacked, got them reinstated as well as got their entitlements paid.