Forex: Workers call for intervention in food, beverage, tobacco sector

Forex reserves

Forex reserves

Three million jobs assessed to be on the line

Workers in the food, beverage and tobacco sector of the nation’s economy have raised the alarm that the sector could be on the verge of extinction as over three million jobs are threatened due to the inability of companies to source foreign exchange to import raw materials for operations.

Already, companies in the sector such as, Nigerian Flour Mills, NFM, Nigerian Breweries Limited, NBL, Guinness Plc, Nigerian Bottling Company, NBC, 7 UP Bottling Company Plc, Friesland Campina Wampco Plc among others, have already written to labour bodies in the sector, notifying them of likely retrenchment of workers.

Besides, the workers said no fewer than 1, 500 workers have been relieved of their duties as employers seek for ways of coping with the foreign exchange crisis, among others.

At a briefing in Lagos, representatives of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association, (FOBTOB) , called for government’ intervention, saying the consequences were better imagined than experienced.

President of FOBTOB, Quadri Oladele, alleged that even before the present situation, employers in the sector had penchant for massive layoffs, noting that, no fewer than 3,000 workers were sacked between 2012 and first half of 2015, under the guise of re-engineering, restructuring, right-sizing, downsizing, redundancy, re-organisation, among others.

According to him, government’s swift intervention in the present crisis will prevent the multiplier effects on the already saturated labour market.

He noted that employers, even before the forex crisis, have over the years given excuses such as difficult business terrain, dwindling profit, irregular and insufficient power supply as factors responsible for layoffs in the sector, adding that, if the situation is not urgently nipped in the bud, more people will be pushed into the labour market.

“The current situation has reached a pathetic level, because it seems all the employers in our sector are in competition with each other on who can lay off the most workers. Every company is now calling for a downsizing of the workforce, and this time under the guise of lack of foreign exchange due to the federal government’s recent policy on foreign exchange. Even the companies which seemed immune to the gale of redundancies are now being put under pressure (by the action of the others) to shed weight and retrench some of their workforce. The employers argue that the economy, at the moment, is very challenging.

“We are aware that not all the raw materials used in our industry can be sourced locally. Where they can be found, they are mostly not available in commercial quantity. That is why it is imperative that the federal government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, takes a second look at the policy on Foreign Exchange again to avoid shutting down the companies in our industry.

The food sector is very critical to the survival of the country. Therefore, placing the companies in the food industry on the priority list of those deserving of Foreign exchange would go a long way to securing the sector. It must be stated that over 3 million people are employed in the food, beverage and tobacco sector and these employees, with their dependents, would be negatively affected if the sector should shut down”, Olaleye.



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