Coronavirus stimulus must be tied to Job Retention

The government’s business stimulus package to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the economy must be tied to job security, Secretary-General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Dr. Anthony Yaw Baah, has said.

Speaking at a forum organised by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) on “Covid-19 and its impact on jobs” in Accra, he stated that protection of employment in both public and private sectors was the thrust of the stimulus, and therefore firms that cannot keep their staff after accessing the facility must take their eyes off the support.

“Our position is that any of these companies that is able to access this support from the government must keep all of its employees. The main reason we are fighting for this is for people not to be sacked from their jobs. When you get this fund, the condition is that you keep all your employees, otherwise don’t come for the money. By this, we mean all those that are already in employment,” he emphasised.

The government, through the National Board for Small-Scale Industries (NBSSI), is providing GH¢600m stimulus in the form of soft loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). The funds are being topped up with GH¢400m of credit commitments from banks.

Thousands of businesses have applied for the support, with disbursement expected this month.

Aside keeping their staff, businesses seeking to access the funds are required to provide their tax identification number (TIN), which, according to Dr. Baah, is justifiable.

“This money is coming from the taxpayers, and everybody that pays VAT should qualify for some sort of support—but what we are saying is that this business support must be tied to those who actually pay tax,” he explained.

He added: “Those who don’t pay tax can still acquire their TIN to be able to access the funds, but that means they have now been captured in the country’s tax database and must pay applicable taxes for the period within which the money will be paid back to the government.”

Implement ‘work-sharing’ to secure jobs

The TUC boss also implored businesses to adopt a German work-sharing scheme called “Kurzarbeit”—which literally means short-time work—as a way of preventing mass lay-offs in the formal sector.

Job sharing or work sharing is an employment arrangement whereby typically two people are retained on a part-time or reduced-time basis to perform a job normally fulfilled by one person working full-time.

According to Dr. Baah, this system has worked in several dispensations across the world and has significantly contributed to faster recovery and fewer job losses from major global economic crises.

“This system allows two or more workers to share the responsibilities, pay and benefits of a full-time job. In essence, it spreads the pain of economic crisis and safeguards employment,” he said.

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