ILO Conference: Workers demand new social contract from World leaders

Helen Shok Jok, Geneva


Workers across the globe under the auspices of the International Trade Union Confederation converged on the Broken Chair located in front of the United Nations Building to demand for a new social contract from their leaders.

Mr Ayuba Wabba, President ITUC made the call during a protest rally on Wednesday in Geneva Switzerland, at the ongoing Centenary celebration of the108th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC).

Wabba said the protest has become necessary as workers all over the world were not treated with dignity.

“The rally today by workers under the auspices of the International Trade Union Confederation, represent 207 million workers from all the continent of the world, from 163 countries are to make the point that workers need a new social contract.

“A new social contract that will address the issue of inequality and poverty around the world.

“So going forward is to demand for a new social contract that will guarantee universal workers right that will guarantee strikes, guarantee freedom of association, guarantee rights to collective bargain and that would guarantee social protection,” Wabba said.

Social Protection
He said that over one hundred billion people around the world do not have social protection or even know their rights; this he said must be addressed.

“As we speak today, over 100 billion people around the world do not have social protection, they do not have pension and they do not have any means of social protection.

“So when they get aged, they become a liability to the society,’’ he said.

He said the demands from workers globally have become imperative to address the issues of inadequate pay, pensions, corruption and their general wellbeing.

Wabba who is also the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said there was no better time than now to bring the demand to the fore when over 40 world leaders are billed to address this year’s International Labour Conference.

“Workers are working yet, workers cannot have anything to show to take care of their families and the essence of this is also to look at the global economy.

“Despite the fact that the global economy have more than tripled, wealth is being concentrated in the hands of few and therefore the majority are in poverty.

“We have seen in all countries of the world there is an issue of increased militarization, where budgeting for military is increasing and social spending is reducing.

“We believed that the foundation of ILO is to address the fact that poverty and inequality anywhere is a threat to prosperity and therefore we thought we need to make the point here and also other issues,’’ Wabba said.

Corruption Fight
He also said the protest rally was a call against corrupt officers globally and also to sensitise workers on their rights to social protection among others.

According to him, “wherever those corrupt officers go to, we will shame them around the world because most of them bring their money here and it is important we get our workers around the world sensitised.

“You can not commit atrocity in one country and run to another country, when you do so, we can use our network to track you wherever you are.

“Workers are now united and in solidarity with one and other, we have realised the issue of divide and rule certainly cannot succeed,’’ he said.

The ITUC President said going forward, “I think it is to make better use of this opportunity of the ILO100 years to say that workers should not be treated like commodity.

“Workers should be treated with dignity because we create the wealth of the world.

“This is where we are, so that our leaders listen to those views and they can go back home and try to do some amends,” he added.

Social Contract
Ms Cathy Feingold, Director, International Department, AFL-CIO America’s Unions and Deputy President ITUC said workers issues globally are the same.

“So from Nigeria to the United States, workers are facing the same challenges of precarious work, failure of having a vibrant social contract.

We are here to say we are going to reinvigorate the issue of social contract, so that all workers have right and dignity social protection.

“We are here to demand of the governments, employers of labour, of the world that we are here to get a new contract to work with them and make sure it is implemented in all of our country,” she added.

The protesters marched through the streets of Geneva and ended at the Broken Chair, located in front of the United Nations Headquarters where protests usually held during ILC conference.

The theme of the 2019 ILC celebration is “Work for a Brighter Future’’.

The conference ends on Friday, 21st June 2019.